Together and with The Power of We, we can start a revolution. One Soul at a time... ~Jon Bon Jovi *** There's a Story on every street corner, my friend. All you have to do is open your eyes... ~Richie Sambora

Bon Jovi at Jazz Fest, New Orleans 4-30-11

Saturday, April 30, 2011


As part of Jon Bon Jovi's schtick Saturday at the New Orleans Jazz Fest's Acura Stage, he laid out a pop music timeline. Today it's Justin Bieber, he noted, when it used to be Justin Timberlake. It's Ice T and Jay-Z now - well, Jay-Z at least - instead of NWA, Ice Cube and Grandmaster Flash. The world is "goo-goo for Gaga" now, whereas he predates Madonna.

Bon Jovi on First Saturday Jazz Fest 2011
Jon Bon Jovi in all his glory on 
the Acura Stage on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.
The one thing that hasn't changed, Bon Jovi noted, is himself. His band, however, has, at least temporarily.
As news broke this week that lead guitarist Richie Sambora was bound for a rehab encore, fans wondered what would become of Bon Jovi's scheduled Jazz Fest show.

By all accounts, Jon Bon Jovi is the consummate show-must-go-on professional. With so much riding on the band performing as billed, he and his bandmates resolved to do the gig sans Sambora.

For a major rock band to carry on without a key member is not unprecedented. Aerosmith toured without lead guitarist Joe Perry back in the day. U2 logged one gig with Adam Clayton's bass tech filling in. Journey still fills arenas fronted by a former Filipino cover band vocalist.

Whether it works depends on what is more important: The music/experience, or the musicians making it. Without Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi and company needed to sell the former. And they did, in spades, even as they largely ignored the fact that a key member was missing.

Ultimately, Sambora's absence didn't much matter. For nearly two hours, Jon Bon Jovi and Phil "X" Xenidis, Sambora's more than capable stand-in, worked extremely hard to deliver a show that, on balance, was more electric and more satisfying than Bon Jovi's 2009 Jazz Fest set.

Bon Jovi on First Saturday Jazz Fest 2011Veteran session guitarist 
Phil "X" Xenidis filled in for Richie Sambora with Bon Jovi on 
Saturday at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. 
The Canadian-born Xenidis has a long history as an understudy and session guitarist for the likes of Tommy Lee. And he wasn't on his own. Since 2005, veteran New Jersey guitarist Bobby Bandiera, an alumnus of Southside Johnny's band, has toured with Bon Jovi as its rhythm guitarist.

With Bandiera laying the path, Xenidis was free to walk in Sambora's shoes. He wasn't shy about it. He soloed in the opening "Forever Young," and busted out the talk-box in "It's My Life." He dressed up "Runaway," a thrill ride from Bon Jovi's debut album that the band did not perform at Jazz Fest in 2009, with extra licks and fills.

Bon Jovi made the most of his time in New Orleans. He spoke with at-risk youth at Café Reconcile on Friday; Friday night, he reportedly visited music clubs on Frenchmen Street. He was typically gracious onstage. "I'm so happy to be back at Jazz Fest," he said. "We wouldn't miss it for the world." (Or for a guitarist going to rehab.)

He noted he had a "great time bouncing around from tent to tent," and thanked both Jazz Fest producer/director Quint Davis and Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Later, he gave shout-outs to Irma Thomas and Wayne Toups, who preceded him on the Acura Stage.

He hammed it up in a leather vest with all but two of its snaps undone. He "put another quarter in the jukebox" and called up "Dancin' in the Streets." His Mick Jagger impersonation - hands on hips, big pout, effeminate strut -- during the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" was a hoot. During a chorus of "Who Says You Can't Go Home," he pointed out a face in the crowd and, grinning, quipped, "Nice hat!"

During "Bad Medicine," the band detoured into a "Pretty Woman" that was more Roy Orbison than Van Halen, thanks to Bandiera's lean guitar tone and lead vocals. Just as quickly, they spun back around into "Bad Medicine," playing like a polished band thrilled to be charting slightly new territory.

In a set highlight, Xenidis and Bandiera muscled through "Lay Your Hands on Me" atop David Bryan's organ fills. Drummer Tico Torres kicked into a double-time beat for a hard rock/gospel finish that dropped off into sunburst harmonies.

For the encore, Bon Jovi donned a No. 11 Saints jersey emblazoned with his own name and chanted "Who Dat." He and Xenidis intertwined chiming acoustic guitars on "Wanted Dead or Alive." Xenidis broke out the talk-box again for a final, most excellent "Livin' on a Prayer." Bon Jovi dedicated it to "our brother Richie."

It was the first time Sambora was mentioned. Or missed.


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I am and always have been a Bon Jovi fan. This blog is just my obsession taken a step further, my imagination in high gear if you will. I love to read and decided to see what would happen when I took that love of the written word and ramped it up a bit.

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