Getting out to London’s former Millennium Dome – now ambiguously named “The O2”, like a selection of other venues around the continent – is always an exercise carried out with a sense of wistful resignation. You know there’s nothing empirically good to do out there, and there’s the vague likelihood that it’ll be unecessarily difficult to get back again if everything doesn’t go EXACTLY to plan. However it is one of London’s only 20,000+ seater venues, and they keep putting the big gigs on there. So when one manages to score a pair of free tickets to see seminal mainstream rockers Bon Jovi, there’s little choice but to brave the Jubilee line and head down to the peninsula of North Greenwich.
During the inevitable pre-gig beer (because once inside the venue, you’re pretty much pinned down options-wise to paying £4.30 a pint for Beck’s Vier) Dave & I mused about the impact of Bon Jovi on our lives. Personally the impact wasn’t huge, other than that 1987’s Slippery When Wet was the biggest album I remember from primary school, and the music of Bon Jovi -along with equally poodle-haired Scandinavian rockers Europe – shaped my early awareness of rock as a genre. For Dave the main sentiment was that seing Bon Jovi 22 years ago was his first ever gig. Though the hairstyles have shrunk over the years, it seemed that the band still sported amazing barnets. Dave also pointed out that he’d read other accounts of the concert series (they were doing a 10-date run at the O2) and many reviewers had remarked on the amazingness not only of Jon boy’s hair, but also his teeth. Pure Hollywood. We briefly wondered what would happen if by some freak accident the Greenwich Meridian Laser hit JBJ in the gnashers – perhaps it would tear a hole in the fabric of space and time, or a the very least create a miniature black hole akin to that which people feared might spew forth from the Large Hadron Collider.
Anyway, upon taking our seats we realised that whilst the stage was in front of us, so too was the entirity of the O2 Arena. We were – in fact – seated behind the band.
For my money (not that I paid any in this case) the only thing better than getting a ticket to see a band you passionately believed you loved as a 12 year old is to spend the whole gig staring at their backs and watching thousands of people in front of you going crazy.
Given that the band have been going for so long and recording more or less continuously it’s little surprise that there were a good deal of the songs I didn’t know. Of course being that Slippery When Wet was their biggest hit to date it’s no surprise that I knew more of them than I thought I would.
Fairly early in the gig JBJ called out a guest artist to come perform with them. He referred to Live 8, he referred to the enormous amount of charity work the man had done, and bizarrely if inevitably, he introduced the guest: Sir Bob Geldof. Just exactly what Sir Bob had to do with Bon Jovi musically I still haven’t figured out, but it allowed us to gain exclusive photo footage of the back of a man who – after all these years – still isn’t fond of the earlier part of the week.
Despite being behind the stage (did I mention that we spent the night looking at the performers’ backs?), the creative use of mobile video screen blocks meant that we got a pretty good view of what was going on. JBJ also occasionally faced the back & side crowds, addressing songs at us as well. I wasn’t able to get any decent shots of this: presumably the glare from his amazing chompers was interfering with my camera’s ability to focus.
Probably the weirdest moment of the night was when the band launched into late 80’s hit Bad Medicine, then something happened and JBJ stopped the music, apologised to the crowd saying “that one was my fault”, then blended into some other song I didn’t know, then let out a familiar-sounding opening “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAA-OH-OH-OOOOOOH-OHHHHH-OOOOH….”. Dave & I looked at each other & said “Please tell me he’s not going to sing Shout?!”. And then he broke into the familiar opening line, “You know you make me wanna SHOUT!”. And so it became that we were looking at the back of the world’s most over-the-top cover band.
As expected they finished the encore with Wanted Dead Or Alive. As they started playing, Dave looked at me dismayed, saying “Oh, they’re playing the wrong one”: we’d earlier had a discussion about how Wanted Dead Or Alive was essentially the same song as Blaze Of Glory, and the chances of them playing both were minimal. But it turned out it was the right one, and Dave stood there beaming to himself.
And of course they finished with Livin’ On A Prayer, which we couldn’t see much of because they chose to join all the video screens together in a huge stage-wide block, and then fly it right in front of our faces.
So that was our trip to see Bon Jovi. Dave’s closing remark was that the girls who were sitting next to us probably weren’t born the last time he’d seen this band.
The main thing I’ve been wondering since the gig is how much less I’d have been amused by the whole thing if I hadn’t scored free tickets. Moot point I suppose, as I can’t think how there’d be a circumstance I’d have ever paid to see Bon Jovi. Meh.
Anyway, if you’d like to see the back of the other band members, the Flickr set from the gig can be found here.