Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Bon Jovi return gloriously with most honest album yet,
played in front of a 2,000 strong audience
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Living With The Ghost
Labour Of Love
Born Again Tomorrow
New Years Day
The Devil’s In The Temple
Scars On This Guitar
God Bless This Mess
All Hail The King
We Don’t Run
Come On Up To Our House
Who Says You Can’t Go Home