Is there life for Bon Jovi after Richie Sambora’s departure. It is hard to believe that it has been five years since the legendary guitarist left one of the most important and decorated bands of the modern era, yet even with that time passed it still seems to be something that magazines and newspapers right around the world still seem to debate. In that time Bon Jovi have toured and released another chart topping album – This House Is Not For Sale – but even I have to admit that it was something that even weighed on my mind as I approached the Melbourne Cricket Ground last night. It was my first time seeing Bon Jovi without Sambora and I find myself wondering what the experience would be like.
Melbourne certainly decided to come to the party. With a week of weather that had included snow, heavy rain and little patches of sunshine Melbourne decided that the first day of summer would bless Bon Jovi and the result was a beautiful and warm 30 degree day which turned into a barmy night… providing the best atmosphere for the show that followed.
As the sun set over Australia’s spiritual sporting home the country’s very own Birds Of Tokyo took to the stage with what felt like a very intimate show despite the fact that they were playing to the vast space that is the MCG while the crowd was still filling. With a set that included so many hits that it could have been a headline show in itself. The set reminded us all why these guys are one of the most under-rated bands in Australia. Every song was performed with perfection from the atmospheric ‘Lanterns’ through to the tracks that really energised the crowd like ‘This Fire’ and ‘Unbreakable.’ They also performed a track that has me searching the internet this morning. A thought provoking track about a failed marriage and promises… and it seems nobody knows what is was. A beautiful song, one of the highlights of the night but it seems like we might have to wait until the band release it on something soon.
Then when the eager crowd was ready Jon Bon Jovi and crew hit the stage, a personalised video at the start which saw the band’s car land in the middle of country Victoria before racing down the highway past of Melbourne’s most iconic sights until they reached the MCG was a nice touch and then the band launched into the ‘title’ track of the night ‘This House Is Not For Sale.’ An interesting choice to open and more was to follow and on reflection of the night it felt like the band almost did two concerts.
Early on the band delivered their more mellow tracks. Musicianship was on show rather than making the crowd go ballistic. The band delivered beautiful versions of tracks like ‘Knockout,’ ‘Whole Lot Of Leavin’,’ and ‘Lost Highway.’ The slower tempo was only broken up by ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ which inspired a haunting soccer-like chant by the crowd that sounded brilliant in the huge venue and ‘Born To Follow’ which saw the band pick up the tempo and once again the crowd responded.
Things then again took a step back pace wise with ‘Roller Coaster’ and a very, very slow version ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’ (which I’ll admit was so slow it was hard to sing along to in parts) and then a very smooth rendition of ‘Born To Be Baby.’ The slower opening to the concert was obviously planned, the inclusion of Everett Bradley on the tour to play percussion alongside Tico Torres provided that it was a deliberate move and it did work making the gig almost feel like a MTV Unplugged session as it showed a different side to the band that we all know or love.
Then though the concert seemed to take a huge turn as Bon Jovi moved into second gear. Like the Olympic sprinters did in the venue back in ’56 the band burst out of the blocks with ‘It’s My Life’ which really saw Phil X and John Shanks come to the fore with some amazing guitar playing that showed that even without Sambora Bon Jovi are still a force to be reckoned with. The band then flipped the bird to those who keep bringing up the whole Sambora argument by having press clippings asking about the band’s demise flashing across the big screens while they belted out a perfect version of ‘God Bless This Mess.’
From there the band just delivered hit after hit while the tempo remained up around the 11 mark. ‘It’s My Life,’ ‘Keep The Faith,’ ‘Bed Of Roses,’ ‘Lay Your Hands On Me,’ and ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ all had the audience singing along and then came the absolute masterpiece a full-on rock anthem version of ‘Bad Medicine’ that was delivered with pure power that the audience just lapped up.
Returning for the encore again the band started slower with ‘Blood On Blood’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ before exploding with crowd favourites ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ and ‘Livin’ On The Prayer’ which once again had the ‘G rockin’.
You may have heard some negative comments about the show last night… don’t believe it. When I was sitting… around 10 rows from the stage the band sounded amazing. Every lyric was audible enough to sing along with and the band was in full flight. Yes they went for musicianship over brute force early on the show but it was clear that was the intention and if you can’t savour that in a band then you aren’t a true music fan. Bon Jovi came, they played and they once again proved they still have a few years left in them yet… I certainly wasn’t disappointed.