It has taken me almost a month to want to write this review and if I’m honest I thought I may never put my thoughts down. As today is the first time I’ve been able to listen to Bon Jovi since the gig, I think part of the healing process may be to write it down.
Long before the show took place I had trepidation about it long before the day ever arrived. I didn’t know that obviously other people did too as it clearly wasn’t selling tickets. The ‘deals specialist’ Groupon started selling tickets for half price on all tier-levels a few weeks before. Even then, the venue was two-thirds empty!
However, there I was in the £100 a ticket Gold Circle (having paid full price) and the 1 Minute to Showtime announcement has just appeared on the screens. The place was pretty quiet by all accounts; it was rammed just over a week earlier when Bruce Springsteen rolled into town. Read a review of that here.
“1 minute to showtime?” I think to myself as over 15 minutes pass before the band limp on stage and start ‘That’s What The Water Made Me’. The sound and atmosphere were fighting each other to be crowned the most subdued.
‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ came and went and nothing stirred within me. At this point how I felt must have looked obvious as Mrs Scramble turned to me and said, ’You look like I dragged you here…’ Of course she didn’t drag me – it is very much the other way around. I am the Jovi fan; since I was 14 years old. That’s 24 years of adulation, love and support.
There was no feeling of joy, no “I’ve loved this band since I was 14”, nothing. Not only was I hearing Jovi by numbers I was watching it too; a band going through the motions. So why was I looking (and feeling) like this? Most likely as its sad watching your childhood heroes fade away.
It was well documented long before the band had even travelled around most of the US let alone hit Europe, that guitarist Richie Sambora was not on the tour. Why? Well, we don’t know. I don’t have a right to know, it is none of my business. However it clearly wasn’t ‘health’ (he was in Paris with his family working on a fashion show whilst the Glasgow gig took place – thanks Twitter!) and the rumours of a rift between he and Jon had circulated. As I say, it’s not my business. However he was missed even though replacement Phil X played blindingly good guitar.
One of the first things I noticed about the Richie-shaped hole on stage was that there was very little in the way of backing vocals. Sure, the rest of the band were in fine voice, but as an artist who famously duetted the harmonies for 30 years – and has three solo albums himself – Richie’s vocal was clearly missing.
‘Raise Your Hands’ sounded awful, as Jon strained vocal all the way through, clearly missing his crutch of Richie’s input. By contrast the best thing about the song was the playing of Phil X! Weird then that when ‘Runaway’ was played and the time came for Jon’s solo (notably played by Jon every time I’ve seen them) it was handed to Phil whilst Jon meandered up the back of the stage. Could he not be bothered to even dial-in the guitar solo? Perhaps he was thinking of heading back to his hotel room already?
By the time ‘Whole Lot Of Leaving Going On’ came around, never has a song title seemed so apt. The skeleton crowd were heading for the toilets, the bar, the exits(?) in droves. Nobody seemed into this at all. ‘It’s My Life’, ‘Because We Can’ and ‘What About Now’ all came and went with little aplomb.
The problem wasn’t just my attitude which had worsened from the start. I wanted to enjoy tonight, I really did. The fact Richie wasn’t here had bothered me, but Phil X was more than a capable replacement. In fact during some songs the guitar had renewed vigour. The problem fell squarely with Jon. He just wasn’t connecting, he wasn’t taking part. He really looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. Anywhere. You could see it on his face. You could see him thinking his next move, and also could see that he knew this wasn’t working.
I don’t know why tickets didn’t sell – apparently the gig sold 31,000 (the venue has been known to sell 65,000 for gigs) – but I do know that Glasgow crowds are infamously tough to please if they think you aren’t giving it your all. So what of the 30,000 poor sods who were watching this Jon? Was it because your ego had taken a bruising from the poor sales, or was it that you are so used to a crowd eating from the palm of your hand that you have forgotten how to really get a crowd on side? The telegraphed false actions of rock n’ roll frontman were so staged that nobody cared; crowd or artist.
I laughed during “We Got It Going On” when Jon turned to Phil X and sung the line “Gettin’ down with Big and Rich, and Richie, and Jon”. The irony seemed lost.
For ‘Keep The Faith’ Phil X played the main riff with a really funky little wah-wah element. It sounded so cool and his own guitar solo for the song was a welcome twist than the Richie version we all know. It was at soon after this I thought “Where’s Jon?” Had he ran to the side of the stage to work up the crowd? Had he made a bolt for the as-yet-unused catwalk walkway which languished through the spartan first half of the crowd?
No. He was offstage. I honestly think this is the first time I’ve ever seen him disappear off stage during a gig. He is always there, grinning that grin, shaking his hips or arms out interacting with the crowd. Not tonight; nowhere to be seen. This led to a huge instrumental to finish the song. I have never seen that happen before and certainly hinted at all not being quite how it should be.
It came to me at this point that perhaps this will be the last time we will see Bon Jovi play a Stadium in Scotland. When I suggest it might prove better to play an arena next time, Mrs Scramble replied “Nah, he’ll just not come back.” That looked more likely at this point.
‘Superman Tonight’, which is one of the superior tracks from the 2009 effort *The Circle* came across as slow and ploddy, ‘In These Arms’, ‘Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars’, and ‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’ ran past us before Jon asked, “How we doing so far?” Genuinely looking nervous. The response from the crowd was positive, but definitely half-hearted.
The hits were not pulled out and it was clear we were getting into the home straight of the main set. ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’, ‘Bad Medicine’ and then Jon looked relaxed with a genuine smile for the first time. A segue into ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and only the intro for ‘Shout!’ (normally a staple although not played in full tonight) seemed to raise spirits some more. It was noticeable how much sweat was dripping off his face as the band went back into ‘..Medicine’ to finish.
Jon thanks us for the last 30 years, for our support, trust and patience (even as I read my notes now I think “trust and patience?” that’s a weird thing to mention). He walks offstage by saying, “It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster, not that we are going anywhere but it’s nice to wrap up the European tour, it’s too damn cold but worth it.”
“Eh? Thanks I think.” Bit of an insult really, especially given the UK is in the middle of a heatwave not seen for many years and the temperature is around 27 degrees! Also weird since they hadn’t wrapped up the tour – they still had London Hyde Park to play two days later.
This is where it got really weird and where I felt even more cheated and pissed off than before. If things had went the following way on all other nights on the European tour I would have put the whole show down to a bad night. The encore was ‘Wanted (Dead or Alive)’, ‘Have A Nice Day’ and ‘Living On A Prayer’. Carbon-copy run-throughs of each song and then they were off! Gig was over. The clock had just gone past 10pm. The band had played 21 songs and were onstage for two hours and ten minutes.
The rest of the tour they played on average 30 songs, including many deep album cuts and rare-tracks. A nice little gem for the fans. Of course there were many greatest hits in there, but over the (on average) 3 hours that every other city got those 9 extra songs which were missing in Glasgow were the ones long-time fans like me would want to hear.
Perhaps it is symptomatic of the internet and the likes of (I think brilliant) site like Setlist.fm however knowing what is played elsewhere can quickly make you feel short-changed.
Tonight’s gig was £100. £100 can buy you a lot – in context, at £65 for the Bruce Springsteen concert it would have given me 5 1/2 hours of Springsteen. Based on this performance tonight it is clear which New Jersey son’s star is falling.