I know I’m meant to be finally sitting down and writing the review of last weekend’s Download Festival, but what a show Bon Jovi played tonight. I have to write this review now!
Much has been made of recent injuries and problems within the band. First Richie checked into rehab meaning he missed the US tour, only to join the band in Europe just over a week ago. Then Jon ‘popped’ his knee onstage a few days back making standing, let along performing, extremely painful. So it is excitement and trepidation that runs through my veins as the intro music starts and Bon Jovi take to the stage.
And what a start! ‘Blood on Blood’ is my favourite song of theirs. I got into the band when New Jersey was released and on that album this song stood head and shoulders above the rest. A song of brothers and friendship, which even today still rings so strongly in my mind.
Jon is cautiously walking around the stage, and Richie is playing to his usual high standard. The whole band are sounding immense and very quickly the 40,000+ crowd are in the palm of the bands’ hands. I can’t explain how much hearing ‘Blood on Blood’ for the first time live in about 13 years means to me; well perhaps I can. There was wet eyes and a gentle tear.
I’ve seen Bon Jovi live 11 times, and sometimes it’s a disappointing experience. Not because the band are necessarily bad, I’m simply a victim of my own attendance. That is, I’ve heard so many of the songs live many times that when they are played again I am slightly disappointed not something which I haven’t heard being played in its place. Not tonight, the hits just sounded so strong. After ‘Blood on Blood’, we were treated to a rousing ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ and ‘Born To Be My Baby’. Three songs in and nothing newer than from 1988!!
Although, tonight was not a night where we were only going to be treated to run of the mill Greatest Hits, and yet with the clear pain Jon was in the crowd would have forgiven him. As the night went on the pain on Jon’s face was becoming more and more obvious. You could see him catch himself, hop a little and turn away from the crowd to hide what he was feeling. Perhaps it was as a result of this, it certainly appeared as if Jon put his all into the performance and since he couldn’t run around and whip up the crowd he stood, held onto his microphone and put evertything into his vocals. It was honestly the best I can remember the man perform in many many years.
Bon Jovi played a few real gems tonight in amongst the songs which everyone in the crowd wanted to hear; after all not everyone was a victim of their own attendances. The aforementioned ‘Blood on Blood’, ‘Raise Your Hands’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, ‘Something to Believe In’, and ‘These Days’ all got an airing. Some are played on occasion but not frequently and it was certainly a joy to hear them.
In particular ‘Something to Believe In’, as first encore was enrapturing. Jon seemed to lose himself in the song, as if for the first time since he’d written it the lyric quite literally struck a chord. 6 minutes of pure joy, and what an underrated song.
Due to the intensity of the performance we were witnessing virtually all the ‘Hits’ sounded phenomenal. ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ was a moment, even though I’ve heard it every time I’ve seen them, when it all just made sense and I was glad to be standing there being part of the moment. Our generation’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ perhaps? A song which you just have to see live to understand why it’s so good.
Tonight was a masterclass in how the true professionals just suck up any pain or issues and give their absolute best. What we witnessed was a show which was stripped of much of the bravado, the show-boating, and crowd interaction which Jon is famous for, and in its place was a reminder of why Bon Jovi are at the top of their game. A reminder of why Bon Jovi have been there for decades, and a reminder of just how amazing musicians they are. Something sadly which always seems to be overlooked, with them being put down as being a ‘party band’.
Roll on Friday when I get to see them again, this time in Manchester…