ANZ Stadium, Sydney NSW
December 8th, 2018
Support: Birds of Tokyo
While Australian fans had waited five years to see the return of Bon Jovi, it had been just over 30 years since this teenage fan girl was standing in the crowd, staring up in awe at my idol. Bon Jovi broke my concert cherry way back in 1987, on their Slippery When Wet tour. Regardless of the journey life has taken me on, leading me to a love for heavier music, Bon Jovi will always be the band that grew with me. Thirty years later, another nine studio albums, a few lineup changes, a well-justified induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame in April of this year and life has brought me here, to witness the Australian leg of the This House Is Not For Sale world tour.
Mother nature was doing her part to add to the occasion, as the sun shone down over Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. A string of lines surrounded the exterior of the stadium, as fans eagerly awaited entry. Despite the long lines, once the gates were open, the crowd moved swiftly into the stadium. As I took my seat and gazed around, the anticipation grew ten-fold. You could not wipe the grin from my face.
Australian tour support band, Birds of Tokyo, hit the stage like a ball of energy at 6:30pm. Their feel-good vibe was infectious. The alternative Rock band, hailing from Western Australia, have five studio albums up their sleeve. Vocalist Ian Kenny, had some technical problems with his microphone dropping in and out. He held the cord in place and soldiered on, without allowing it to make an impact, until it was changed a few songs later. Birds of Tokyo were fun to watch, and had some of the crowd singing and bopping along in their seats. Every few songs, they reminded us that we’re all “in for a treat tonight, Bon Jovi are on fire”. They played an hour long set, incorporating 13 tracks into their set, including ‘Empire’, ‘Plans’ and ending with ‘Lanterns’, where Ian called for the crowd to hold up their phone torches even though the sun was still shining.
As day turned to night, the stadium filled. Had age or line up changes deterred Bon Jovi fans? The sixty-odd thousand fans in attendance spoke for itself, and the answer was a big fat no. Shortly after 8pm Bon Jovi, made their way on to the stage, while Jon Bon Jovi made his grand entrance through the general public, high-fiving fans and exchanging cheek kisses along the way. Fans immediately standing to cheer on their beloved band. Bon Jovi kicked the set off with two tracks from Slippery When Wet, the first being ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. I wondered if this was a risky move, throwing such a big song out to start, but in essence, it was a great kick start to the show. ‘Raise Your Hands’ was next and of course, the crowd did just that. Jon’s voice, although still powerful, is showing signs of the band’s longevity, his energetic stage presence is still there, sans the lycra, scarves and tasselled leather jackets. While the costumes were a lot more conservative, the sound and even the atmosphere was still as epic as it was all those years ago.
The title track from Lost Highway followed on. Jon announcing “We have a lot of catching up to do and a lot of music to play”. The lights in the background formed a diamond, with the screen transforming into a blue sky filled with clouds, ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’ played. With the big country feel, it was a very different sound to the Bon Jovi I was accustomed to. Enjoyable to watch none the less, as Jon and Phil X had a nice harmony happening. The crowd responded well, throwing their hands in the air chanting “it’s alright”, some even holding ready made signs, with the words printed on them.
A brief moment of darkness, as the band changed instruments. Jon thanked us for thirty years of kindness and belief. With the pounding of Tico Torres drums and a spectacular explosion of lights, ‘This House Is Not For Sale’ began. David and Phil X lending backing vocals. Everett Bradley, side of stage on percussion’s, added his own little something to the production of the show. This track was evident that Jon has aged like a fine wine, as he walked the stage fist pumping his band mates. Phil X pulling out a great guitar solo, that reassured me the loss of Richie Sambora was just an opportunity for this great talent to jump on board. Jon ending the song with the statement, “This house you helped us build, aint going nowhere, never”! ‘Roller coaster’, ‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’ and ‘We Don’t Run’ proceeded, followed by the anthemic ‘It’s My Life’, which saw the crowd go into a frenzy, yelling and cheering. I have to mention, the sound tonight was perfect from where I was positioned. I could not fault any of the production in any way, everything was spot on. ‘Born To Be My Baby’ had Jon jumping from the stage, walking along the barrier and shaking hands with fans. Obliging to the “kiss me” signs that fans held up and taking part in countless selfies. I won’t lie, the teenager in me wished I was one of the lucky ones down there.
A bass intro from Hugh McDonald and Jon shaking some maracas, an epic extended version of ‘Keep The Faith’ ensued. Each member having the opportunity to showcase their individual talent. David Bryan on keys, was amazing to watch, playing two separate keyboards, with one hand on each. Wow! John Shanks and Phil X treating us to some superb guitar solos, while Tico pounded his skins, like the seasoned professional that he is. David, continuing with his astounding keyboard playing, introduced ‘Bed Of Roses’. Evoking emotions from fans, as they embraced and exchanged kisses, while the rest of us swayed along. ‘Living On A Prayer’ had everyone bouncing again, Jon was back down to mingle with his fans before bidding us all good night and thank you.
Surely a band of this caliber would do an encore, right? Yes! With a quick costume change and begging from fans, Bon Jovi were back on stage to belt out ‘Bad Medicine’. I was hopeful ‘Runaway’ would make it to the set, however if was not to be. Fan favourite ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive’ was next. Typically Richie Sambora would have been front of stage with Jon, donning his cowboy hat and double neck guitar. While that classic element of the song was missing, Phil X did a damn fine job with his 12 string, quickly dissipating any memory of the 80’s classic hit, at least for the night. ‘I’ll Be There For You’ ended the show, or so we thought. Bon Jovi came back with a second encore, ‘Blood On Blood’ and ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’ for the finale.
Band mates came together centre stage, joining hands, bowing to thank the crowd. The crowd responding with cheers, whistles and smiles. As I exited the stadium, it was hard to ignore the happiness that oozed from everyone around me. Thirty years may have passed us by, but the feeling evoked in me tonight, was just the way I remember it in my teenage years. I was ready to graffiti random objects with “I heart Bon Jovi” and plaster my bedroom walls with posters. With a 23 track set list, I’m definitely satiated and grateful for the opportunity to experience this band one more time.
You Give Love A Bad Name
Raise Your Hands
Who Says You Can’t Go Home
This House Is Not For Sale
We Weren’t Born To Follow
We Don’t Run
It’s My Life
God Bless this Mess
Born To Be My Baby
Have A Nice Day
Keep The Faith
Bed Of Roses
Lay Your Hands On Me
Sleep When I’m Dead
Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars
Living On A Prayer
Wanted, Dead Or Alive
I’ll Be There For You
Blood On Blood
Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night
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