Bon Jovi – Botanic Park – Tuesday 4 December 2018.
Words Geoff Jenke
Bon Jovi have been a going concern for 35 years, releasing their debut album in 1984. For a good part of the 1980’s to 2000 they were a major force in rock n roll. The band return for the first time in 5 years to play Botanic Park, Adelaide, on a warm and beautiful evening. There is something about outdoor concerts that makes the evening special.
Birds of Tokyo opened the evening with an hour of anthemic music, looking at home on the big stage. Pity they were playing to an audience still arriving as they delivered a superb set. Ian Kenney is the consummate front man, with style and grace and a great voice to go with it. They delivered songs from all stages of their career, Broken Bones, a beautiful acoustic Greatest Mistakes, a fantastic new song which I think is called Promises and indeed does show a lot of promise. The radio friendly Anchor received a loud cheer but it was the duo of Unbreakable and Lanterns that won the crowd over. Lanterns is made for the stadium. Full marks to the elderly gentleman in front of us who danced through the whole set by himself.
This House is Not for Sale is Bon Jovi’s current album and also the name of the tour, the bands first outing since 2013. With over 130 million albums sold, more than 2,800 concerts played in 50 countries over 35 years, Bon Jovi have earned their place among rock royalty.
With an Aussie flag being unfurled on the big screen, the band walk on stage and launch into Lost Highway, the crowd on its feet cheering them on. Who Says You Can’t Go Home came next, Jon looking a little greyer on top, wearing a jacket with “shot through the heart” image on the front. Jon is a professional showman. He knows where the cameras are on stage and plays them for all they are worth, the crowd cheering at the imagery on the big screens.
He also knows to mix the “hits” with the deeper cuts, so You Give Love a Bad Name and Raise Your Hands are rolled out after the opening two tracks to louder cheers. Jon informs us they have a new album out called This House Is Not for Sale, and tells us “It was a hit in the USA”. We get two tracks from the album and a portion of the crowd head to the bar for a refill.
“Thirty-five years we were a lot younger and a lot prettier” Jon tells us before launching into one of the highlights of the evening, Runaway. The song still sounds fresh and exciting today.
Unfortunately, what was becoming obvious was Jon’s voice is no where near as strong as it once was. The band were never far away from microphones to lend support to Jon, taking over chorus’s and extending instrumental parts. This was most obvious during Keep the Faith, the first part of the song fell a bit flat but when the band launched into an extended instrumental outro, it became exciting. Guitarist Phil X was given room to move and unleashed a brilliant guitar sound. Keyboardist David Bryan showed how good he was, playing two keyboards at once. I heard the man behind me comment “Bon Jovi are great without their singer”. Sad!
During Born to Be My Baby, Jon made many a fan happy by walking along the front row, giving high fives and having selfies taken. Bed of Roses had the audience swaying and waving their arms in time with the music.
Lay Your Hands on Me, Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen from Mars and Bad Medicine rounded out the main set.
The 5-song encore included Blood on Blood from New Jersey, which was excellent. Great to hear this song live again. The run home was I’ll Be There for You, a very very short version of Wanted, Dead or Alive and a hard rocking Livin’ on a Prayer finished the evening.
Bon Jovi are still a great stadium band, despite the singer’s short comings. It was good to hear the hits and deeper cuts in a live setting once again. Instrumentally the band were exceptional with Phil X doing a great job filling in for Richie Sambora and all the members boosting the vocals admirably.
However, will this be the last time we get to see Bon Jovi? During the song Bless This Mess, headlines from the band’s career were flashed up on stage and one was held for quite a while, “Has Bon Jovi lost its touch?” and another “What Happens Now?”
Indeed, what does happen now?