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

Review: Bon Jovi Talking Stick Arena, Phoenix AZ 3/4/17

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Jon Bon Jovi led his bandmates and a sold-out crowd in a night of reflection and hits (mostly hits)

Jon Bon Jovi was feeling reflective as he added yet another 19,000 faces to the list of those he’s seen and rocked at Talking Stick Resort Arena a day after marking the 30th anniversary of the third career-defining single he managed to run up the pop charts from a 12-times-platinum breakthrough titled “Slippery When Wet.”

On more than one occasion, he referenced the 34 years it's been since “Runaway,” his first Top 40 single with the band that bears his name. He didn’t play that single, but he talked about returning to that very studio – or “the same place where I was a coffee boy,” as he noted -- to make “This House is Not for Sale,” Bon Jovi's fourth consecutive release to top the Billboard album charts. And he reflected on the hard times surrounding the 2013 departure of Richie Sambora for “personal reasons” as part of a heartfelt speech about carrying on.

"For those of you who know," Bon Jovi noted, "2013, it ended tumultuously. And in 2014, I was in a fog. I was in a daze. And it wasn't particularly positive. And I'd stare at that guitar and I'd sort of just give it the finger. And to tell you the truth, I think it gave me the finger back. But by 2015, I started to tell that same guitar stories and it started to sing to me. And when we went in the studio together, the same place where I used to be a coffee boy, back in 1980, where I was the gopher, where I wrote, or certainly recorded "Runaway," where we in 1983, did our first album."

And that location clearly got to him.

"To go back to that same room," he continued, "having lived all this life, to cut this record, after all we'd been through, the ups, the downs and the ups again, I was reminded why you end up writing songs to begin with. You want to get together with friends. You want to create something. You want to have the joy of camaraderie and teamwork. And you want to walk out of there and call the people you collaborated with your friends. When we made this record, it was a great reminder of what great friends we all are."

And yet, for all those moments of reflection, this was no nostalgia show. He held off on the two biggest singles from “Slippery When Wet” for the end of the encore and opened with the first two singles from “This House is Not for Sale” before dialing it back to the ‘80s – a decade “Slippery” helped define – with “You Give Love a Bad Name.” By the time he led his bandmates in “The Devil’s in the Temple,” they’d played half the songs on that new album and six other singles they’ve released in years that stared with a 20, from the double-platinum “It’s My Life” to “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” a song he dedicated to former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, a former NASA astronaut.

Then, after “Devil’s in the Temple,” he promised us “nothing but hits, more hits and all the hits from here on out.” And that’s exactly what we got, including three songs from Bon Jovi’s other multi-platinum ‘80s hit machine, “New Jersey,” before they closed the set with “Keep the Faith,” the lead singer shaking maracas as he sang.

Those early hits inspired massive singalongs, of course. But here’s the thing about Bon Jovi fans, whose loyalty led to a sold-out performance. They haven’t stopped paying attention. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” from the 2005 album “Have a Nice Day,” brought the crowd to its feet, and the audience was lit with cellphones held aloft for “Scars on This Guitar,” a heartfelt highlight of the new release, which had Bon Jovi grinning ear to ear.

And speaking of that smile, the man turned 55 two days before the show, but that matinee idol quality that had the women swooning in his long-haired youth remains, despite the shorter, silver hair. And he’s still got the stage moves, which were Jagger-esque in spots, a point he underscored by slipping a taste of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in the middle of a raucous “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

He let the audience handle the high parts on the encore-closing celebration that was “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and there were other moments were he may have backed down from a note or two, but his voice sounded great and his bandmates’ wall of harmonies offered flawless support.

Those bandmates still include two guys he’s played with since the early ‘80s – drummer Tico Torres (introduced as “the heart and soul” of the band) and keyboard player David Bryan. Another member, bassist Hugh McDonald, played on “Runaway” as a session musician and joined the band in 1994.

This was Bon Jovi’s second Valley show without Sambora, who left the tour a few weeks prior to their 2013 appearance in Glendale. The guitarist who stepped in, allowing Bon Jovi to finish the tour, Phil X, is still on board, and great as he sounded in Glendale, recreating Sambora’s more memorable solos note-for-note enough to have captured their essence, he’s really grown into the role, allowing his own style to shine through.

Toward the end of the night, Bon Jovi thanked the fans "for being on this incredible journey with us for these 34 years now. And I want to thank you for coming and spending your Saturday night with us. It has been a real treat." And with that, he asked if there were "any cowboys out there," effectively tipping his hat to Arizona while introducing a crowd-pleasing version of "Wanted Dead or Alive."

Bon Jovi setlist

This House Is Not for Sale
You Give Love a Bad Name
Lost Highway
Whole Lot of Leavin’
We Weren’t Born to Follow
Roller Coaster
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (with Jumpin’ Jack Flash)
We Got It Goin’ On
Who Says You Can’t Go Home
It’s My Life
We Don’t Run
God Bless This Mess
Scars on This Guitar
The Devil’s in the Temple
Lay Your Hands on Me
Born to Be My Baby
Have a Nice Day
Bad Medicine
Keep the Faith


Because We Can
Blood on Blood
Wanted Dead or Alive
Livin’ on a Prayer


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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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