Bon Jovi In Bon Jozi
Saturday May 11. Over 65000 J-burgers have fought their way through kilometre long traffic snarl ups and seemingly equally long entry queues to draw together in the Calabash (aka The FNB Stadium, aka Soccer City). The late Autumn Highveld chill has had as much effect on stopping the masses from gathering as the queues have – i.e. none whatsoever.
Most of the hordes will politely ignore opening act Daniel Baron. I’ve never heard the phrase “Who is he?” asked so often before. He was adequate as an early opener.
The growing numbers on the field and in the stands will get a little more animated and involved when main support Elvis Blue and his band take to the stage. Mr. Blue is probably one of the more musically talented products of the SA Idols mill, and comes across as being genuinely appreciative of the chance to open a stage for the legends that 99.95% of the now packed mass of humanity is here for.
The 40-minute wait while the stage is reset and things are prepared for the main event is handled with patience, despite the growing chill that the lack of movement emphasises. Joburgers are a hardy lot and know that waiting for what they want will be worth it.
Especially when what they want, what they all really, really want, is a BJ.
‘BJ’ is of course Bon Jovi, and at a little before 9pm the Bon Jovi band quietly slips onto the stage, followed moments later by Jon Bon Jovi himself, and launch into “That’s What The Water Made Me” taken from their latest album What About Now.
After apologising for taking 18 years to return to South Africa, Jon Bon Jovi and the band that carries his name, spend the next 3 hours more than making up for it.
Bon Jovi is an incredibly engaging frontman. His pearly whites gleam in the lights, his smile infectious. He banters with his band and with the audience. He teases the front row ladies with regular views of his, errr…, assets. He thanks the audience repeatedly for coming out to see them and keeps the energy levels up with frequent requests to sing, clap, dance. He threatens to play until they kick us out at midnight, and then proceeds to do just that.
The Bon Jovi band is a tight, practiced unit, even with the continued absence of long-standing band member and lead guitarist Richie Sambora. Sambora is sitting out the South African and European legs of the tour for “personal reasons”. His talented pick is ably taken up by Canadian session lead guitarist Phil X.
(BJB went on record on the Ellen DeGeneres show recently and tried to end the speculation about Sambora’s sudden departure and subsequent absence: “All I can say is that, honest to God, it’s a personal matter, but we love him very much and he’s absolutely still a member of the band.”)
The rest of the band are all there: keyboardist David Bryans’ trademark tight blonde curls whip around frenetically, Tico Torres thumps his double-bass drum kit with obvious enthusiasm and regular bass guitarist Hugh McDonald picks away merrily. They are joined (as usual) on tour by guitarist Bobby Bandiera. With 35-odd Because We Can Tour dates under their collective belts already, the band is faultless for the entire show.
We get classics like “You Give Love A Bad Name”, “Living On A Prayer”, “Bed Of Roses”. We get new songs like the new album title track “What About Now” and the tour title track “Because We Can”. We get covers like “Start Me Up” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with near-perfect Jagger Swagger thrown in.
Three hours, four encores and a Beatles cover later and Bon Jovi is on his knees and we are spent. Bon Jovi in Johannesburg turns out to be a very memorable, very satisfying BJ indeed.
Here’s our video of “You Give Love A Bad Name” filmed on our trusty little Sony Cybershot (so pardon the dodgy quality.)
Final note to send huge compliments to Big Concerts. Handling 4 sold-out major stadium concerts in under a week so well is no mean achievement. Big up Biggie!