Neither the hot night, nor the absence of original Bon Jovi member and songwriting partner Richie Sambora was enough to stop this train. Bon Jovi proved that they are still going strong. With a number one album and a number one tour, topping both Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi shows no signs of slowing down.
Fresh from their two month European leg of the tour, Bon Jovi returned home to the United States and brought their “Sofia Stage” with them. First stop: Chicago. I foolishly expected there to be some sign of exhaustion, but with a week between their last European show in London’s Hyde Park and Chicago’s Soldier Field, Jon, David, Tico, and session guitarist Phil X were all on their A-game, in typical fashion. Even the lesser-known, supporting musicians Hugh McDonald and Bobby Bandiera seemed rested and ready to jam.
They opened with one of my personal favorites from their new album What About Now called “That’s What the Water Made Me” and it proved to be a crowd pleaser. From there, they launched into a few old hits and had everyone going. It was sort of a genius move on their part. The build up and anticipation of their appearance on the stage for the first song meant they could’ve played “I’m a Little Teapot,” and most wouldn’t have cared, so they go with some new material that perhaps not everyone knows, and then pull everyone in and hold them there with songs even non-Bon Jovi fans know.
In keeping with the setlist pros, frontman Jon Bon Jovi made a statement before the start of the tour saying that they were going to try to play a few more crowd favorites and album cuts, which they did, and still, there was never a lull. They knew which songs to pick, when to toss in a ballad, and went to all out jam!
- That’s What The Water Made Me
- You Give Love a Bad Name
- Raise Your Hands
- Born to Be My Baby
- Lost Highway
- It’s My Life
- Because We Can
- What About Now
- We Got It Goin’ On
- Keep the Faith
- (You Want to) Make a Memory
- Bed of Roses
- In These Arms
- Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
- We Weren’t Born to Follow
- Who Says You Can’t Go Home
- I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (with a partial performance of “Dancing in the Streets”)
- Bad Medicine (with a partial of “Pretty Woman” — something Jon and Bobby are known to perform from time to time)
- Wanted Dead or Alive
- Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night
- Have a Nice Day
- Livin’ On A Prayer (Fake out ending)
- I Love This Town
After “Bad Medicine,” David descended from his post at the keyboards and Tico came down from his drum riser for the bow. They should really get oscars for the performance they gave here. Concert goers in my section were teared up, gathering their things, and most certainly wondering what happened to “Wanted” and “Prayer” because everyone knows, those are staples of a Bon Jovi concert, like it or not. Fortunately those same people refused to leave before the band left the stage and they saw what the rest of us saw. The band started a huddle, with Jon occasionally returning his gaze to the crowd, giving the “just give us one second” hand gesture before returning to the huddle to pretend to have a discussion about an encore with the rest of the guys. This trickery lasted about two minutes, long enough to make the guys wonder if it was real and long enough to make the girls go into hormone-overload. (I admit, I nearly blew a vocal chord while screaming and chanting encore!)
No one can deny the pre-show murmurs of “Where’s Richie?” and “What’s going on with them?” But once you accept that you won’t be seeing him that night, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the show. Jon and Richie have a rapport on stage that the fans live for, so you would expect the vibe to be much different, but in Richie’s absence, Jon has stepped it up and made sure that the fans get what they pay for! (By the way, some are paying a lot, divvying it up for the good seats, but for others, it isn’t so much. Ticket prices on this tour have gone as low as $20.00! That’s a steal, folks! Even in the nosebleeds, this is a show you will enjoy.)
Though there have been many rumors of a Richie-less Bon Jovi Boycott, there didn’t seem to be an empty seat in the house that warm, Chicago night, and while this particular Bon Jovi fan misses Richie too, I have to give credit to guitarist Phil X. Having seen him perform with the band in 2011 during Richie’s stint in rehab, I can assure you that he’s only gotten better, and he wasn’t terrible then. He has a better handle on the songs and the background vocals, though David (Lemma) handles most of those, and his stylistic inflections are there enough to satisfy him, but faint enough to not drive droves of Bon Jovi fans into a murderous rampage.
Fear not, Jovi-Faithful, this “Homebound Train” is still running full speed ahead!