Time is very precious. It's the most precious thing that you have. So you should try to live every moment to the fullest. ~ Richie Sambora
Aftermath of the Lowdown
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For all the set lists, videos, pictures, reviews and whatever else you might be looking for, check this out. Hath has taken on a huge undertaking and with a little help from her friends she hopes to bring you anything you may have missed, want to revisit or see for the first time if you weren't able to get to a show.
Bon Jovi Gets Hot, Sweaty at Intimate SiriusXM Show During Art Basel Miami 2016
If you’ve been to a Bon Jovi show in the past 30 years, you’ve seen them play in an arena for crowds of no less than 10,000.
On Saturday night (Dec. 3), it was the closest you could get to a serenade, with the now Richie Sambora-less group playing for a lucky 200 at a private SiriusXM show as part of Art Basel in Miami Beach. With a plus -- extraordinary sound and acoustics at the intimate and gorgeous Faena Theater.
“Nobody’s used to seeing us in a place this small in 30 years,” Jon Bon Jovi said before the show. “It’s nice. It’s Miami, it’s Art Basel, it’s Saturday night.”
Pre-show, Bon Jovi said he still hadn’t had time to scope out his first Art Basel, even though he’s a serious art collector who leans more toward “traditional masters.”
Although he declined to say exactly what paintings are hanging on his walls, he did admit to collecting “quite a few” photographs, from Herb Ritts to Richard Avedon (Bon Jovi’s new album, This House Is Not For Sale, is inspired by a Jerry Uelsmann photograph, now the cover of the album).
On the subject of Hillary Clinton, Bon Jovi was less cagey. “I adore Mrs. Clinton, and like I’ve said all along, regardless of the outcome the country has to come together the next day and start anew,” he said.
There was, in fact, not a sign of politics during the nearly two-hour show, which kicked off with “This House Is Not for Sale,” the title track off the new Bon Jovi album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last month.
Although Bon Jovi has played the entire album during a couple of intimate shows, Saturday night’s -- which aired live on the band’s SiriusXM channel, Bon Jovi Radio -- spanned old and new fare, also including the just released “Born Again Tomorrow” along with “You Gave Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “It’s My Life.”
Dressed all in black, Bon Jovi, the band, looked trim and relaxed, the tiny stage elevating rather than constraining a performance that had some audience interaction but was really focused on delivering a lot of music in little time.
“A hot, sweaty, club show,” Bon Jovi said wryly beforehand. “Something we haven’t done in a while."
It wasn’t that hot or sweaty (the Faena experience is more upscale), but the level of excitement was off the charts, and for diehard fans, who at the most were 40 feet from the action, priceless.
“This is the closest I’ve been to them,” said a man in his late 30s standing next to me. “Their music has changed my life. I do what I do because of them.”
Which takes us back to Jon Bon Jovi backstage pre-show. When asked what his favorite Christmas gift of all time has been, there was no hesitation: “My first guitar. It was a Univox electric guitar that cost my mom $100.”
Bon Jovi Without Richie Sambora Is an Aging Dog That’s Lost Its Bite
While many people will forever associate them with their pop-metal heyday of the late 1980s, Bon Jovi has not only escaped the hair band ghetto but thrived by launching heartily into different musical phases.
They’ve gone hard and gritty (Keep The Faith and Bounce), pop-rock (Crush), Nashville-esque (Lost Highway), and misguidedly adult contemporary (2013’s What About Now). While some of the various twists and turns have not always pleased longtime fans, the band gets props for their lyrical maturation and for not sticking to the straight and narrow.
Which brings us to This House Is Not For Sale, their first studio album in over three and a half years and the first without original guitarist and chief Jon Bon Jovi songwriting collaborator Richie Sambora, whose skilled, soulful playing has been a vital part of the band’s sound since its inception back in 1983.
The six-string icon abruptly absconded with his guitar a quarter of the way through their 2013 world tour, their highest grossing ever and one of the highest grossing of all time, and his prolonged absence has had many fans wondering what’s next for JBJ and his Grammy-winning group. Their latest studio effort makes it clear that, with guitarist Phil X in tow, they are steadfastly moving forward.
Part of this trajectory includes reportedly naming longtime unofficial bassist Hugh McDonald an official member (it’s about effin’ time) along with Phil, whose other band The Drills revels in raucous hard rock. This roster change could offer a throwback to the days of Bon Jovi yore even as they carve out new territory, and with Jon feeling the need to purge his feelings about events of the last three years, those harder licks would make a nice fit.
Bon Jovi even returned to Avatar Studios, once known as Power Station, where they recorded their first album and where Jon cut the demo for “Runaway” (which included McDonald on bass) that helped land him his long-running deal with Mercury Records, which has since been revived through Island Records. It seems to be a conscious effort to return to their roots.
Many of the new Bon Jovi songs can be interpreted in two ways: as prototypical tunes about the struggles of everyday, working-class people (“I set each stone and I hammered each nail/This house is not for sale”) and as autobiographical confessionals about grappling with his record label (“The Devil’s in the temple and he’s making a mess/Got the Mona Lisa, got his hands up her dress”) and coping with the loss of his musical compatriot (“Are you living in a nightmare, are you living in a dream/Do you stand for something, will you fall for anything”).
The catchy title track, “Living With The Ghost,” the infectiously propulsive “Knockout” (with its grooving bass line), and the edgy “Devil’s In The Temple” in particular focus on coping with change and uncertainty, overcoming adversity, and pushing ahead. They are both personal and universal and among the best cuts—punchy and hooky. The vocals on those tracks are also among the most angst ridden on the album, with Jon sounding impassioned and sincere.
While there is some vim and vigor to be found on This House Is Not For Sale, a majority of the tunes veer toward mid-tempo, steadily chugging tracks that are often U2-ish in their sonic architecture. There are not a lot of rhythmic changes to be found. The big pop-rock anthem “Born Again Tomorrow” stands out mainly because the rhythm section drops out in the radiant chorus while the song loses little propulsion.
Throughout the album, those now standard “woah-oh” and “hey-ey” chants surface a lot (“sha-la-la” rears its head, too). Two of the ballads, the Chris Isaak-esque “Labor Of Love” and the romantic piano and string swooner “Real Love” (on the special edition), while pretty, are predictably housewife-friendly.
Guitarist Phil X has good hard rock credentials and chops, but it feels like, riffing aside, the man just isn’t allowed to truly let loose here.
“Devil’s In The Temple” serves up snarling riffs and rhythms that lead up to a mid-section that cries out for a nice, wailing solo…that never comes. Phil plays flashy but brief lead breaks on the title track and “Born Again Tomorrow” and is allowed a short, tasteful solo on the closing song “Come On Up To Our House,” but they feel almost obligatory. They are exactly eight bars each time.
The third and last bonus track on the special edition, the snarling and majestic “We Don’t Run,” one of the few solid tracks on Burning Bridges that gets imported here, would have made a great ending to the regular edition of the new album. It’s one of the most driving and aggressive tracks on This House Is Not For Sale, but ironically John Shanks is the one who gets to tear things up for a few bars. Phil X is like many younger members brought into a veteran band, often stifling their individuality somewhat to fit into the whole, but this is where he could have made a difference. He has big shoes to fill, but he really needs to get a proper shot at it.
Then there is keyboardist David Bryan, the most underutilized man in rock.
Here you have a classically trained player who also has a passion for blues and rock. He was set to go to Julliard when his high school bandmate Jon enlisted him into the ranks. Some of the songs Bryan wrote on their early albums had larger than life choruses that totally fit with the group’s oeuvre. He has worked on movie soundtracks with Larry Fast, released two solo albums, and not only co-wrote a cheeky off-Broadway musical (The Toxic Avenger) but a multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway one (Memphis) as well.
In the way that Phil X, Hugh McDonald, and drummer Tico Torres are churning out straight eighth notes on a lot of the new songs, Bryan has generally been relegated to playing chords over a majority of the last few albums and often gets buried in the mix. He rarely gets to shine anymore. Even the delicate, pretty piano work fueling “Real Love” could have shown more color. What gives? He’s a great talent. Exploit him.
A principal culprit here beyond JBJ is longtime producer John Shanks. He came onboard with Have A Nice Day in 2005 and has been co-writing many of their songs over the last 10 plus years.
He plays guitar on this album as well and is now part of their touring line-up. Shanks undeniably has a great pop pedigree that has racked up millions upon millions in record sales, and yes, he worked on the last Van Halen studio album. But he has been smoothing out and polishing Bon Jovi’s rough edges too much, notably here and on 2009’s The Circle. The latter, while one of the Jersey boys’ best albums, actually could have used less refinement. Bon Jovi have been at their most successful when they straddle the line between hard rock crunchiness and pop melodicism. The pop side has taken over too much over the last decade. It’s time for a change.
Don’t get me wrong, This House Is Not For Sale has its moments, and many of these new songs are better than I expected, particularly in light of the baffling castaways collection Burning Bridges released last year. But many of them are simply middle of the road and lack the bite that made us fall in love with these Jersey boys to begin with. This feels like a lost opportunity to fully match the emotional turbulence that Jon is channeling with a heavier sound and more gusto. I’m not feeling nostalgia for 30 years ago either; more like a decade back.
I’ve been contemplating the future of a lot of hard rock bands in recent months, especially with many heritage acts now in their 60s. Some people can grow older gracefully, others not so much so; it depends on the group and their raison d’être. With members still in their 50s, Bon Jovi could indulge their adult contemporary side further and probably remain accessible to a lot of their loyal audience.
But right now, especially with a younger gun in tow, these guys still have energy in reserve to keep rocking hard for a little while longer. Bring it on. Knock us out.
“Extra’s” AJ Calloway sat down with Jon Bon Jovi, who opened up about the emotional road to making his band Bon Jovi's 14th album.
The rocker shared about the new record, "You know what I realized, it’s been four years since ‘What About Now.’ It’s been a lifetime. Other days, it feels like it was yesterday 'cause it seems like the last tour was yesterday; it’s three years ago now, and I was just in this fog and there’s a lot of things that I had to process so that I could get to a place where I could write it down, music I could share with people. But coming out of that fog now, I feel great."
One of the things he had to process was guitarist Richie Sambora leaving the band. “There was a number of things — I mean, as we sit here in the hallowed halls of my record company... We had a big falling out and that, too, was one of the things that was rectified. Of course, everyone knows that once Richie didn’t show up for work anymore we had to go on — that was another issue — so there's been a number of things that weren’t expected, and so I had to process that.”
As for how it he got through it all, Jon revealed, “I had a lot of friends and you know what was great, is I can say I had a lot of help, I had a lot of people helping me to get through it — friends when I needed friends, shoulder when I needed a shoulder, and I did, I needed that shoulder, so the writing was the end result of that breakdown, the turmoil, the coming to the crossroads and figuring out what the hell happened to me and 'where am I going with this?' because we don’t make music frivolously… I had to have something to say and I needed the tools to say it, which was the band and the support.”
The rock star admitted he took a page out of Beyoncé’s book, drawing inspiration from her latest album. He said, “Having seen Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade' I said, 'I'd like to make a video for every song,' and we've never done that before… Tidal said, ‘We'll make a video for every song on the record if you want to do that,' and I said, ‘That would be great,' and we could really tell the stories behind the lyric, so there's no performance video, these are like little mini-movies, and so I really applaud Tidal for taking the shot.”
In Bon Jovi’s “Labor of Love” music video, Jon cast a surprise young star instead of appearing in it himself. “You know who's in it, though, is Bob Dylan’s grandson, Jake Dylan's son. Levi Dylan is the handsome young man in the video. He’s a great kid and we put him in a couple of them.”
The group's newly released single, ‘This House Is Not for Sale,” is also helping him move on. “'This House Is Not for Sale' is about integrity; it’s about a rebirth, also.”
"This House Is Not for Sale" drops tomorrow and Bon Jovi's upcoming tour kicks off in February.
Jon Bon Jovi on Trump, Bono, Bieber — and the agony of his split with Richie Sambora
"I should have cancelled but there was not a chance in hell. The shit I went through on that last tour. I have earned this grey hair."
It's something unheard of in the modern PR junket, but Jon Bon Jovi interviews are running early. Breaks have been built into his day but he doesn’t want them. He’s somewhere in this suite at the Savoy Hotel in central London: remnants of black tea steam in a delicate china cup next to a recently vacated chair. Soon his compact frontman’s frame appears in the doorway, stomach flat as an ironing board – and to my dismay it becomes apparent that this will be a sunglassesinterview. They’re removed just once, 30 minutes in, for a weary pinch of the nose.
It’s been a terrible three years. “Turmoil”, as he put it, to Jo Whiley the previous afternoon during a three-minute chat at an album launch. He didn’t get time to say why but everyone knows. His compadre Richie Sambora – partner for 30 years, co-writer of their four No 1s, fellow New Jersey boy and guitarist in one of the biggest bands in the world – is gone: he stopped showing up for work in 2013 and now tours the world with his girlfriend in an act he describes as “Sonny and Cher on steroids”. Jon, who has played to 32 million people, launched a new album cautiously with a string of gigs that could be described as boutique. Neither mentions the other on stage.
Other things went wrong for Jon Bon Jovi. The band fell out with their record label. And two years back, he tried and failed to buy the American football team the Buffalo Bills. He already had one team – and when it was rumoured he would move the Bills from Buffalo to Ontario, Canada, there was uproar. Whole areas of the struggling city declared themselves “Bon-Jovi Free Zones”. His music was banned from bars and strip clubs. It must have been painful for the man who’s spent 30 years, like a kind of blockbuster Springsteen, reflecting the blue-collar worker in the American musical psyche. He and Richie’s biggest hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, followed the fortunes of a young couple during the union strikes of the Reagan era. Fans debated whether the song’s fictional Tommy was a strike-breaker. “No, no, Christ no. He just lost his job – it wasn’t that he crossed the picket line!” said an anxious Jon in 2009.
In discos, dives and weddings across the planet, floors still fill to his anthems’ opening bars. From the philanthropy career (he builds homes for low-income families) to his campaign work for Al Gore, John Kerry, Obama and both Clintons, Jon Bon Jovi has been a model citizen. He spent two years on the White House Council for Community Solutions, which, he assures me, actually “meant we had to show up for meetings and do things”. He has said, however, that he’d never go into politics full time “because 50 people hate you before you’ve even walked out the door”. He called it a “shit job”.
“No,” he qualifies. “They asked me who had the better job, me or Bill Clinton. I said me, because I get to keep the house and the plane.” So he’ll never run for office. What about Springsteen?
“Bruce isn’t a politician,” he says. “Bono is more of a politician than Bruce.”
He stands up and moves across the room, throwing open the floor-length windows that look out over the Thames. Tour boats are moving up and down the river, and he’s been bugged by a particular one all morning – someone is singing through a Tannoy in a high, male voice. “Did you hear that? At first I thought it was someone falling off the bridge. I thought it was someone jumping. Heh heh.” His gloominess is strangely performative.
“Here’s my take on Trump,” he says, getting back to work. “The one demographic he’s currently leading in is the white, older, somewhat educated male. That demographic are coming from a place of disappointment and fear. Fear because they don’t know where their pot of gold went. Disappointment because they have now realised the American dream isn’t going to happen.
“Hillary has to embrace the voices of the Sanders millennials who are resolved to the fact that they are not going to own a home or have two cars, but are very concerned about the environment and their own futures. The Trump demographic, they’re probably non-believers in global warming because they’re uneducated and they’re not paying attention. With regard to the Republican candidate, I wish there were a better mouthpiece to speak up on behalf of those people.”
When Jon Bon Jovi was 26, he was hurt by a review that made fun of his inspirational music, which celebrated the simple values of loyalty and friendship and, as the writer put it, appeared to believe in Rocky Balboa running up the steps in Philadelphia. Then Jon had a realisation: “I live that life,” he said. “If I went to Washington tomorrow I could probably meet the president. I was Rocky.” The American dream happened for him.
Rock’n’roll was not an impossible fantasy for the son of two ex-marines growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey. “Thirty miles south from where I lived is this beach town [Asbury Park] that Bruce was able to make famous – the biggest places he could play at that time were literally a 3,000 seat theatre. He made the unattainable accessible.”
In 1973 the state of New Jersey lowered the drinking age from 21 to 18, largely to allow soldiers returning from Vietnam the right to purchase alcohol. He says the new drinking age helped him break into the music scene. “At 16 or 17 I could get into bars and play.” His parents were supportive, he explains: “They said, if you’re going to be in a bar until three in the morning, at least we know where you are.” Like most of his peer group he had no college aspirations. His cousin Tony ran a recording studio in Manhattan where – sweeping floors, like a hair-metal Kris Kristofferson – Jon was able to cut some demos. He got a record deal at 20: “Then it got a little bigger, and a little bigger until it got to the place where I am, and no one had dreamed of that.”
Like any good Italian boy, when he started making money, he tried to put a bit back. He bought expensive things for the family – such as holidays and cars. He warned them about a trip to Italy a year in advance so they could plan time off work. How long did it take his family to get used to their son having more money than them?
“They didn’t get used to it,” he says grumpily. “They still aren’t happy with it. They’re still resentful of it sometimes. They were like, of course I want it – then they got it and they were like, I hate this f***ing house. Really? You don’t have to stay here. . .” At several points in our conversation, he slips into imaginary dialogues.
“We weren’t the first and we’re not the last. Elvis did it 50 years ago and I’m sure that Harry Styles did it two years ago. It’s a confusing time when you become that guy and have the ability to share with your family the fruits of your labour. People think that money makes you smart. It doesn’t. It makes you rich.”
His cousin Tony sued the band, claiming he’d had a part in developing their sound. His brother – another Tony – worked within the touring entourage in the early days. “Two of my brothers, actually,” he corrects. Are they still employees?
“Yes and no . . . Sorta . . . Anyway."
It’s not fashionable in the UK to talk about your rock band as a business. Sambora once explained that Bon Jovi “created 42 markets” by touring 42 countries. “I think you’d be hard pressed to get someone to even f***ing name 42 countries,” he added. In 1989, they were guests of honour in Gorbachev’s Russia. I ask Jon to recall his experiences of this historic moment. I can see his eyes through his shades and he’s staring into the middle distance.
“Records were still on the black market – even having a list of the records you owned could get you put away. The hotel rooms were definitely bugged. The bottled water was very salty and the meats were dried.”
He is starting to enjoy this. “The entire Aeroflot fleet had glass noses so they could be converted at any moment into military aircraft. And they didn’t have brooms. They’re trying to sweep out the stadium on the first night, and it was a bunch of sticks tied together. I’ve not been back since.”
Jon Bon Jovi sees himself – as his band name would suggest – as “the CEO of a major corporation”.
The group is not, and has never been, a democracy. Once, the band’s curly-haired keyboard player, Dave Bryan, was asked whether this bothered him and he said, “I’m semi-bothered about it but not enough to ruin my life. You can’t fight City Hall.”
Jon says it’s the Henry Ford theory of management: someone’s name has to be at the top of the paper. However, the group’s appeal was always a double act – that brittle romance between lead singer and guitarist that lies at the heart of many classic rock bands, from Mick and Keith, to Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, who may grow to loathe each other but stay together for the sake of the songs. Sambora – multi-instrumentalist and a flamboyant guitar hero – explained his role in the band like this, in 2009:
“I’ve always had it in my head that the success of our band was going to be our leader being very, very happy – and I tried always to be there for him as a friend, and from a musical level, and from a business standpoint. If can help Jon be in a great mood as much as possible, I’m going to do it and that’s what I’ve put on myself as a responsibility.”
Jon, who is clean-living, and Richie, who is not, kept it going for a long time. In the early 1990s, Bon Jovi nearly split but were saved by group therapy at the hands of the psychologist Dr Lou Cox, who runs a company called EgoMechanics in New York.
“It was fabulous,”says Jon. “We got the idea from Aerosmith. He wasn’t like Brian Wilson’s guy [the svengali Eugene Landy]. He got his hourly fee and he left.”
I called Cox at home: he was a kind, avuncular voice on the end of the phone. He told me he made Bon Jovi act out their feelings for one another: “I would have them be angry at each other in a kind of role play, just to find out they could do it safely and not kill each other.” He talks about family dynamics being laid down early – certain prohibitions against “speaking up”. And about the honeymoon phase in the life of a major rock band “when they are literally in love with each another . . . Then you have your first fight and the air goes out of the balloon. How do you manage, going forward, when it isn’t all wonderful feelings?”
This is a long interview, but very interesting. You can read the rest of it here.
Bon Jovi proves they can still rock at NYC listening party
NEW YORK —Nobody writes rock anthems like Jon Bon Jovi. It’s his superpower.
It says something about his skill set, 30-plus years into his career, that he was able to play a concert consisting of brand-new songs — 15 in a row — at New York’s Barrymore Theatre on Thursday night, and have audiences pumping their fists, clapping and hopping up and down as if he was doing a “greatest hits” show.
Songs like Knockout, God Bless this Mess andRoller Coaster from his new album, This House is Not For Sale (dropping Nov. 4 from Island/UMG), have a sort of instant familiarity. As if we had been hearing them on the radio for 30 years.
Not because these songs, some co-written with John Shanks, Billy Falcon and others, are derivative (though Roller Coaster may, in fact, remind you faintly of David Bowie’s Modern Love.)
If they feel familiar, it’s probably because they’re so archetypal – timeless models of what a Big Rock Song should be. They’re tough. They’re defiant. They’re loud and proud.
“I’m giving you the finger and sticking out my chin” (Knockout). “I wouldn’t live my life any other way” (Born Again Tomorrow). “Hold your head high, like Harry give ’em hell” (Reunion). Those are just some of the ways that Bon Jovi lets us know that his head is bloodied, but unbowed.
The new songs sounded right at home with a couple of older favorites that the band threw in for a nightcap: Who Says You Can’t Go Home and Bad Medicine.
Thursday’s event, live-streamed on Tidal, was the last of several “live listening parties” in which Bon Jovi has played and talked audiences through the new album (his 14th). It was also a career milestone for the Middlesex County, N.J., rocker: having conquered the airwaves and the movies, Thursday’s show marked Bon Jovi’s Broadway debut. “So here we are on Broadway — we finally made it to the big time!” he quipped.
Bon Jovi knew enough about New York fashion to dress in black for his big Broadway moment. So did his boys: longtime band members David Bryan on keyboards andTico Torres on drums, newer members Hugh McDonald on bass and Phil X on lead guitar, augmented by Shanks on guitar and Everett Bradley on percussion.
They played to impress. Bon Jovi pranced, pirouetted and did windmills. Phil X — taking on the mantle of the departed Richie Sambora — ripped and shredded. “Turn it on, turn it up!” Bon Jovi commanded at the start of the night. They did.
In a way, it’s surprising this new album appears to be such a crowd-pleaser. The subject matter isn’t exactly universal. Judging from some of Bon Jovi’s between-song commentary, it seems to be largely about the rocker’s own career as he approaches middle age (he’s a young 54).
It’s not news that Bon Jovi has had a rough couple of years. His longtime lead guitarist, Sambora,left after a very public, prolonged spat. There have been failed attempts, or at least rumored attempts, to buy major sports franchises: The Buffalo Bills in 2014, The Tennessee Titans this year. And he’s had problems, since resolved, with his label Mercury. More recently — this week — he was again unaccountably denied a nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Much of the new album has the feeling of insider baseball — with an emphasis on scores to be settled. The finger that Bon Jovi talks about in Knockout would appear to be raised at some very specific people.
“We were fire and gasoline, I ain’t living with the ghost.” Who, recently departed, could that be about? “Look what they’ve done to this house of love.” Who is the Devil in the Temple that the song refers to? (the record label? Just a guess). As for “coming home” to the place “where memories live and the dream don’t fail” (This House is Not For Sale), we’ll just note in passing that this album marks Bon Jovi’s return to The Power Station — now Avatar Studio — the New York recording facility co-founded by Jon’s cousin, producer Tony Bongiovi, where Bon Jovi got its start.
If all this sounds very self-involved, let’s point out that there is a pop music tradition of rockers writing self-referential epics about the trials of being a big rock star. Fans have no problem identifying with The Wall and Tommy, even though few of us have ever had the sad, alienating experience of being an idol beloved by millions.
Do the problems of a rocker and his label amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? Maybe not. But diehard Bon Jovi fans will be happy to know that their hero is a fighter who will never, ever sell out.
They’ll be happier to know he still rocks.
SET LIST (Oct. 20)
1. This House is Not For Sale 2. Living With the Ghost 3. Knockout 4. Labor of Love 5. Born Again Tomorrow 6. Roller Coaster 7. New Year’s Day 8. The Devil’s in the Temple 9. Scars on This Guitar 10. God Bless This Mess 11. Reunion 12. Real Love 13. All Hail the King 14. We Don’t Run 15. Come on Up to Our House
Bon Jovi return gloriously with most honest album yet,
played in front of a 2,000 strong audience
After a three year hiatus, Bon Jovi, fronted by the ever smooth JB, stylish in black, launched into their new single This House Is Not For Sale at the London Palladium to the sheer delight of a 2,200-strong crowd.
The intimate audience, in a venue, as JB quipped in his opening gambit, traditionally reserved for Bruce Forsyth on a Sunday night, was largely made up of ardent fans who’d won tickets in a lottery – and it showed.
Given the new album – with the same name as the title track – is not out until November 4, it was, as Jon said, a big ask to expect the crowd to listen to 15 tracks of a new album, in order.
But, not only did they do that, they met each one as if it were an old classic.
The fact the majority of the room already knew every lyric to THINFS is a pretty good indicator that this track will raise the roof on the band’s upcoming 2017 stadium tour.
The rest, they may not have known word perfectly, but they were on their feet from beginning to end.
This was not your average gig, but then, it was not touted as such.
The ‘friends and family’ show, as JB called it, was sold as a ‘live listening party’ to showcase This House Is Not For Sale.
Anyone expecting hit after hit with a Livin’ On A Prayer encore would have done better to wait for the tour, because this was never meant to be that.
In reality though, while it was advertised as a live listening party, it was pretty much an audience with Bon Jovi in the most traditional sense.
JB took to the mic between songs with passionate speeches and honest confessionals.
Some might call it indulgent, but for the fans it was an absolute treat.
The album, which the band played in its entirety, in order, will unequivocally please Bon Jovi fans.
It’s upbeat, has huge catchy choruses (well, you’d think he’d know how to write a tune after 35 years doing it), and has a few classic ballads – everything you’d expect to hear from a Bon Jovi album.
But one thing sets it apart from past albums, and that’s the honesty in the lyrics. In this album, Bon Jovi opens himself up, bares his soul.
As he explained from the stage, whenever he had written emotional lyrics in the past, he would deny they were about him. ‘No, that’s Billy the Kid,’ he’d say, of the emotion in Blaze Of Glory, for instance.
When he was younger, he was out to prove himself and didn’t want to let his sensitive side show, he explained. Now though, he has ‘something to say and nothing to prove’.
As he wove the narrative into the playlist, he revealed with raw honesty the stories behind the songs.
The timbre of his voice conveyed new vulnerability, illustrated by the moment he had to restart the song All Hail The King because he got too ‘choked up’, after speaking of the troubles he’d experienced for the last three years.
The ‘troubles’ refer mainly to a huge bust up with Bon Jovi’s long term record company, Mercury (a dispute now resolved), the departure at the same time of long-time guitarist, friend, founding member and co-writer, Richie Sambora, and problems with his voice.
With that behind them though, the band seem relaxed as they roll through the first few songs off the new album.
New guitarist Phil X treats the audience to an extended solo in THINFS, showing he is more than up to the task of filling Sambora’s shoes, while Tico is still the ever reliant man at the back, providing a thundering foundation throughout.
At first listen ‘on tape’, THINFS has notes of Bruce Springsteen, while production-wise the album has a Killers Sam’s Town feel to it. It’s less full-on rock, and at times has an indie/dance vibe, especially with Tico’s kick drum pulsating through most of the songs.
Reunion has a Mumford & Sons feel, with the intro guitar sounding banjo-esque and the chorus being similar, melody-wise, to Mumford’s hit I Will Wait.
Live though, you don’t hear the banjo style guitar or the comparison to Mumford at all – just pure, unadulterated rock, which makes it a surefire banger.
Rollercoaster, another hit-in-waiting, shows off the upbeat, anthemic style Bon Jovi fans love.
The album ends with a track which, JB explains, would have been a single from the Burning Bridges album, had it not been for the arguments with Mercury.
It now will feature as an addition on the deluxe issue of THINFS – and it’s a damn good job too. This track is another certified banger. A quintessential classic with a monstrous chorus to get any stadium crowd bouncing.
It is a polished production, with John Shanks (also referred to by Jon as the band’s shrink) at the helm for his fifth album with the band, and touring with them for the first time for this album as guitarist alongside Phil X.
What I’d like to see on their next album is less of the polished and more of the rough and ready – the way they used to write their songs and the sound and attitude they have at their gigs.
Talking about New Year’s Day, Jon says the newborn baby crying represents him in the studio as the song took shape, ‘as it used to back in the old days’, when the band would just riff it and a song would happen naturally rather than being pieced together in a studio.
As Tico pounded the kick drum saying it needed a different rhythm, David joined in on keys and Jon, as he put it, started sobbing.
It was this approach that got them where they are today and, if they could capture that attitude on a studio album, it would have all the energy of their live performance.
Jon claimed, midway through the night, that in 2014 he didn’t pick up his guitar at all. Instead, he just looked at it, imagining the the guitar giving him the middle finger.
Naturally, he gave his guitar the middle finger back.
Maybe it was the break that helped reignite the spark he needed to create an album that will likely be a real favourite among their legions of fans.
After a quick exit, the band return for a two-song encore. Who Says You Can’t Go Home excites the crowd to a new volume and, before they catch their breath after the last note, David Bryan launches into the opening riff of Bad Medicine.
And the place.
Hands and arms in the air; screams.
And rightly so.
It is the perfect reminder of why Bon Jovi have sold 130 million albums and packed out stadiums for three decades.
And, as JB said in his last emotional monologue, they’ll continue to do so for another three.
This House Is Not For Sale Living With The Ghost Knockout Labour Of Love Born Again Tomorrow Rollercoaster New Years Day The Devil’s In The Temple Scars On This Guitar God Bless This Mess Reunion Real Love All Hail The King We Don’t Run Come On Up To Our House Who Says You Can’t Go Home Bad Medicine
Bon Jovi Debuts New Album, Addresses 'Tumultuous' 3 Years at Intimate New Jersey Concert
Who says you can’t go home? Bon Jovican and did on Saturday with at a live listening party for over 1,500 fans who won the chance to hear the band’s new album, ThisHouseisNotforSale, at an intimate show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey.
“Happy Saturday night,” Jon Bon Jovi said to the crowd, who were handed playbill’s that included the lyrics to the record as a primer for the evening. “Welcome to the debut of ThisHouseisNotforSale. It’s been three long years. There’s been a lot going on in my life, but I hope your life has not been as tumultuous. But it’s pretty good these days.”
Indeed, the New Jersey band has weathered quite a few storms in that time, with the departure of guitarist Richie Sambora in 2013 and a well-documented dispute with Island/Universal Music Group. Bon Jovi -- who will be honored at Billboard's Legend of Live at the 13th Annual Billboard Touring Conference and Awards this November -- is the longest tenured artist in the history of Mercury Records, and the singer held nothing back from the audience as he revealed the turmoil the group faced during the group's “five seconds” without a label home.
“The legacy mattered and the future was bright,” he said. “There was no way I was going to walk away from that.”
With that drama happily behind the artist (everything was settled with a new deal inked earlier this year) Bon Jovi opened up his soul on record and in the live setting with a fascinating display of honesty and an inside look into what inspired the lyrics, music and story behind ThisHouseisNotforSale. Bon Jovi was refreshingly candid telling stories about each song, eager to share the process in an evening with “friends and family” gathered in the theater.
“It's a record about integrity, about rebirth, about life, love, loss and all the sweat that goes between," the 54-year old singer said. "We have a lot to say and not a fucking thing to prove."
Those expecting a rehash of SlipperyWhenWet or even NewJersey will be disappointed.
“It you think I’m going to keep re-writing “You Give Love a Bad Name,” sorry folks, that book’s gone,” he said.
With that, the band presented the album almost in its entirety in front of an audience for the very first time -- with a slight detour performing bonus tracks towards the end of the set.
Among veteran band members Tico Torres on drums and David Bryan on keyboards, the group was rounded out by bassist Hugh McDonald, new guitarist Phil X (who filled in for Sambora after he departed The Circle tour), percussionist Everett Bradley and John Shanks, who has served as producer for every Bon Jovi record since 2005's HaveaNiceDay.
“He finds the truth in everything we do,” Bon Jovi said of Shanks.
The group opened with single and lead-off track, “This House is Not for Sale,” kicking the door open anthem with a declaration that “these four wall have got a story to tell.” The “four walls,” he explained, represent the band and 33 years of its musical legacy. As the song concluded-with Torres adding a thunderous backbeat and Phil X shredding the solo—Bon Jovi flashed his infamous smile, clearly relieved to pass that initiation and encouraged by the crowd’s warm reception.
With that, the band presented the second track, “Living with the Ghost,” a song he said came to him out of a dream, as he recited from memory the lyrics “I saw a man wash his feet in the church holy water/he worked up to his knees from his arms to his neck/ He said I’m over my head/ He was crying, trying to get some relief” and the revelation: “That man was me.” The song -- an assurance that the group is moving forward on “open seas” into the future -- set the table for the defiant new single, “Knockout," which Bon Jovi called a “chip on your shoulder” anthem. The third track on the album is destined to come alive when the band plays bigger arenas. In the Basie, the song blew up to the rafters, bringing the crowd to its feet.
“Labor of Love” plays out like a love letter to anyone -- be it a lover or a loyal fan base. With a guitar line that recalls a spaghetti western, the song breathes long enough to provide a nice dramatic live moment as the crowd responded to a slight pause after the line, “I want to die in your arms hearing you say my name” with resounding screams.
Taking stock of the audience, Bon Jovi cracked a joke about fans recording the shows with their iPhones for inevitable uploads to YouTube, encouraging people to go right ahead.
“We’re sounding great,” he laughed.
He offered more insight into the next song, “Born Again Tomorrow,” as it asks the listener if you are a “coulda, shoulda, woulda” person and that he is happy with his own choices. “Rollercoaster,” an up-tempo song, completes the first six songs, with a chorus that stands out and could be a contender for a radio single.
“New Years Day,” he explained, is not about a “date on the calendar,” but about new beginnings. It is also the first track, he said, where he knew the record was a true “band” effort, as previous records were recorded separately. The song, he said, was inspired by Sting’s musical, TheLastShip, and a nod to the art of creating music for a Broadway show, offering keyboardist Bryan up as an example for his Tony winning work for the play Memphis.
“The Devil’s in the Temple” is a direct shot at the “business of music” and how it poisoned the “house of love” -- his label home of Mercury Records. The guitar line beautifully sets up the attack before Bon Jovi spits out the words, “This was a church/ A house full of prayer/ It ‘aint that now.” Of course, he said, everything worked out, but he still got to record the song in the same studio he began his career as the “gopher" -- Avatar Records (formerly the Power Station).
Dialing it down a bit, Bon Jovi delivered one of the best tracks on the record -- “Scars on This Guitar.” Framing the Nashville-flavored song with an introduction of how he used to sit in awe watching Mink Deville play in Asbury Park (and a very sweet moment singing Deville’s song “Storybook Love” from the film, ThePrincessBride), the song filters 33 years of road life through the “cracks” of an instrument that “offers no forgiveness, ‘cause she likes to make it hurt.” It is a captivating piece of music, as the band -- particularly Bryan on piano -- reveled in the quieter moments.
Coming into the home stretch, Bon Jovi once again paid tribute to the band’s journey with “God Bless This Mess," saying, “we’re happier than we’ve ever been," and the song, “Reunion,” giving a note to Rutgers' graduating class of 2017 noting the song is perfect for graduation videos or award ceremonies. From there, Bon Jovi was sidelined into presenting three bonus tracks -- “Real Love,” “We Don’t Run” (from the fan album, BurningBridges -- and another searing attack on the label) and “All Hail the King,” a song celebrating the generous spirit of the community and the mission of the singer’s Soul Kitchen restaurant.
Concluding the presentation of the album with the song “Come On Up to Our House” -- which he called the album’s “bookend” -- the singer said he knew he was done writing the album when he realized the songs that began with an “I” began ending with a “we.”
“All are welcome at our table,” he sang. “You can never stay too long.”
The band did stick around a tad longer, however, taping the song “This House is Not for Sale” for an upcoming appearance on ABC’s GoodMorningAmerica and a brief dip into the past with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” and “Bad Medicine.”
The band will continue its short promotional tour at the London Palladium on Oct. 10 and at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, on Oct. 17.
The group will also give their first-ever Bon Jovi on Broadway performance at the Barrymore Theatre Oct. 20, which will be live-streamed via TIDAL. Following the inaugural show TIDAL members worldwide can access exclusive behind the scenes content and footage from the intimate tour.
This House is Not for Sale will be released Oct. 21.
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.