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O2 Arena, London 20 June 2010
It's an ill
wind that blows nobody any good. Michael Jackson's death last year left
media giants AEG with a huge task in filling all the dates booked for
his shows at the O2, and who better to step into the shoes (or gloves?)
of the King of Pop, than the Kings of Stadium Rock?
So it came
to pass with Bon Jovi forsaking their usual outdoor shows for a twelve
night residency at the O2. It is never been fashionable to like Bon Jovi,
and they attracted a lot of criticism for the scale of prices for
premium seats, followed by schadenfreude when many of them failed to
sell and were offloaded in special offers. Other former fans have
accused them of losing their edge and becoming bland and uninterested.
three shows I witnessed saw a band still on top of their game and
delivering value for money for their fans with a 2 ½ hour set, packed
with songs and devoid of some of the previous padding (like the
still, at least a quarter of the set list varied each night, with many
obscure songs given an airing at least once to please fanatics who went
multiple nights, while ensuring all the hits were still present and
correct every night. It really was a lesson to many established bands
with a stagnant set list (no names, no UFO).
Jon Bon Jovi
came over as a rather joyless businessman in the recent rather
depressing documentary, When We Were Beautiful, and yet if he was
feigning his enthusiasm on stage, he is a more talented actor than I
gave him credit for.
with the most gleaming set of teeth money can buy, his ability to work
the crowd and how they responded to his every move was very apparent
from my viewing point in a box overlooking the side of the stage (paid
for, but not at premium prices I hasten to add!) .
selling point of Bon Jovi (though I realise musical snobs may view this
as exactly the reason to dislike them!) is their accessibility - catchy
songs with lyrics that affirm the positive power of human nature, and
'yeahs' and 'who-ohs' placed for maximum singalong impact, which makes
for an almost revivalist atmosphere when sung in unison by a 23,000
on this occasion with one of my favourites, Blood on Blood, which saw
Springsteen influences clash with their 80's pop-metal, followed by
newie We Weren't Born to Follow, the latest in a line of classic
anthems. But the gig really took off once JBJ urged the whole crowd out
of their seats and to cast off their inhibitions to You Give Love a Bad
was the massive, hook-filled choruses of Born to Be My Baby and In these
Arms, or the more groove-filled I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and We Got it
Going On, with JBJ prowling the raised platforms at the back of the
stage, the whole place was joining in and singing along, making for a
memorable atmosphere, capped by Bad Medicine, surprisingly moved for
this tour into the middle of the set.
other four musicians were line astern towards the back of the stage,
Richie Sambora was allowed to share the limelight. He seemed back to his
best after his personal problems and was even given a slot to prove that
he is arguably the best singer in the band - for most of the tour he
took on Lay Your Hands on Me, but on this occasion it was the rarely
heard Homebound Train, with its Aerosmith meets Deep Purple feel.
The mood was
completely taken down for a while with Jon going deeper into the crowd
to sing the ballad Bed of Roses, before ushering the rest of the band
forward to join him for an acoustic segment of the Who's Squeeze Box -
in honour of David Bryan who in Jon's words was 'making the accordion
look sexy' - a superb These Days with some great vocal harmonies, and
Someday I'll be Saturday Night.
band are masters at pacing a set, and from there on in it was back to up
tempo rockers. Another admirable characteristic (unless you are stuck in
the past and think the band never recovered from JBJ's early 90's
haircut) is the way newer songs nestle comfortably alongside the old
classics, so we got the likes of Have a Nice Day and Work for the
Working Man as well as the insanely catchy Its My life, before ending
with Keep the Faith, where I was particularly impressed with the way
Tico Torres urged the beat on.
I Love this
Town was the surprise first encore this time, before they closed with
perhaps their two signature songs- Wanted Dead or Alive, with Richie
thankfully dispensing with the long pre-song tune up but releasing a
spine tingling solo, and Livin on a Prayer. After JBJ sang an a capella
intro, the crowd did not even wait for the band to kick in before
chanting the chorus in unison, and even the cavernous O2 arena was
turned into a riotous party.
Jacko anyway? On this evidence I can keep the faith that the Jersey boys
will continue to provide a great live experience for years to come.
by Andy Nathan
Alternate view (19 June)
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