I’ve been attending Bon Jovi gigs since the early 90s, but this was to be a special one, as it’s the first concert my 11-year-old son Lucas has shown interest in, and so I booked tickets for us to go when they first went on sale. He’s not been that into music until the last few weeks, so the timing of Bon Jovi’s return to Wembley couldn’t have been better.
Now Jon’s voice is not what it used to be, Richie left some years ago, and recent albums haven’t been as good as the earlier material. However, they are still Bon Jovi, the soundtrack of my life, so any opportunity to see them is a welcome one, especially as I’ve been saying since Lucas was born that I wanted to take him. I was a little worried he might get bored, as we entered the stadium 70 minutes before the start, but he loved trying to answer the trivia questions on the screen, and seeing if our photos would come up on the fan wall. They didn’t.
Before Bon Jovi we were treated to the Manic Street Preachers, at least that’s what I thought going in. I’ve always liked the Manics, more so back in their Generation Terrorist era than anything since, but enough to be looking forward to seeing them perform. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t very impressed. There wasn’t much in the way of stage presence and the sound was guitar heavy, so vocals were hard to make out. I know Wembley Stadium isn’t known for its amazing sound quality, but they didn’t do themselves any favours. The first song was Motorcycle Emptiness, my favourite of theirs, though the clear highlight of the set was their cover of the Guns N’ Roses classic Sweet Child O’ Mine. That was the only song that got the crowd going, and I suspect few tears were shed they finished up. It’s a shame as I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time, but it wasn’t their day to shine.
Thirty minutes later and the main event was ready to commence, as Bon Jovi took to the stage and the crowd exploded, myself included. Right from the start it was clear that the band, and especially Jon, were 100% up for it, and determined to put on a great show. Kicking off with the titular track from their latest album, and This House Is Not For Sale set a high standard which was continued throughout the night. They got the crowd really going as they followed that opener with Raise Your Hands and You Give Love a Bad Name. What I love, and respect about Bon Jovi, is that they know who has come to see them and they know what they want to hear. So tracks from the latest albums are kept to a minimum, and we were treated to a plethora of songs from the 80s and 90s, when Bon Jovi were at their artistic and peak.
I kept an eye on Lucas, and much to my delight he was really into the concert, singing along, and even up on his feet, clapping with the odd first bump. He wasn’t dancing as much as his Jovi crazy Dad, but was having a great time, and was captivated from start to finish. He’s not familiar with a lot of their songs, so he had to put up with me excitedly telling him this is one of their best, as the likes of Keep The Faith and Bed of Roses. The outro to the former was pretty bloody epic, with Phil X playing like a demon, for this and the whole night.
It wasn’t all positive though, as I mentioned earlier, the sound isn’t the best at Wembley Stadium, though the atmosphere certainly makes up for that. Worse though, was the screen being out of sync with the sound. Bear in mind this is a screen directly behind the band, not a video link from thousands of miles away. It boggles my mind that they can’t get this right in 2019. When many thousands of fans, ourselves included, are too far away to see the band in any detail with the naked eye, we rely on those screens, and they didn’t do the job. Especially not for the price you have to pay, even up in the nosebleed seats – a phrase Lucas questioned, wondering if we really would get a nosebleed!
The only other negative was the time we had to wait between the main set and the inevitable encore, which went on way too long. A small gap builds up the excitement, but this was so long it almost ended in boos. That said, when they came out and gave us an incredible 7-minute version of Always, I forgave them. This visibly took a lot of Jon, but it was well worth it, and as one of my favourite Bon Jovi songs, it was a very special moment for me. They then finished with the National Anthem of Bon Jovi and Lucas sang every word of Livin’ On A Prayer, as did the whole crowd. What an encore and what a way to finish a fantastic evening.
01. This House is Not For Sale
02. Raise Your Hands
03. You Give Love a Bad Name
04. Born to Be My Baby
05. Whole Lot of Leavin’
06. Lost Highway
08. We Weren’t Born to Follow
09. Have a Nice Day
10. Keep the Faith
12. Bed of Roses
13. Blood on Blood
14. It’s My Life
15. We Don’t Run
16. Wanted Dead or Alive
17. Lay Your Hands on Me
18. Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
19. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
20. Bad Medicine
22. Livin’ on a Prayer
Were the vocals as good as in the 90s? Of course not, but were they good enough to give everyone a fantastic Bon Jovi experience for almost 2.5 hours? Absolutely yes, and then some. To still be able to see ‘my songs’ performed live some 30+ years after they changed my life, is not something I take for granted and I’ll keep going for as long as they tour. Seeing my son singing and dancing to some of the songs made it even more special. I’m over the moon the first concert he’s wanted to go to is Bon Jovi, that’s a memory I’ll hold on to for the rest of my life, and I hope he does too.