|C-Money and Shark-Fu at VIP Party|
Yes, Jon, I’m gonna live before I die. I’m gonna stand my ground. I’m gonna work for the working man. I’m gonna love, love, love and fight, fight, fight. I’m livin' on a prayer, but I know I can always go home. I’m gonna be happy now. Cuz someday I’ll be Saturday night. Oh, yeah.
We made the pilgrimage to Chicago to worship with the faithful in a 50,000 strong tribal love fest at Soldier Field. During our weekend sojourn we met fellow fans. This is a band for the people and Bon Jovi fans are great folks. At the pre-party we met two women from Chicago and talked hockey and reminisced about our first Bon Jovi shows while sipping vodka crans and munching deep-fried mac and cheese, cute little chicken pastries and sliced meats.
Memories. Our first show was the New Jersey tour in St. Louis. Shark-Fu had 80’s bangs and I had black plastic bangles and purple lipstick. I was a senior in high school and Shark-Fu was a sophomore. Skid Row opened up. We were in prime spot on the way to our seats to be the Youth Gone Wild and jump the rail to the floor, but The Shark grabbed the back of my t-shirt, emblazoned with “We’re Back, Kickin' Ass!” and cooler heads prevailed. We nestled into our seats waaaaaaay up in the rafters but when Bon Jovi hit the stage Jon was still larger than life. Bras were flying, girls were crying, Richie Sambora was laughing under that iconic hat. Two, Three, Four. Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah. Pyrotechnics from the stage. Lighters in the stands. Jon going for it on Livin' on a Prayer. We left the definition of an arena rock concert with our ears ringing.
Remember back when pants were tight, hair was long and MTV played music? Everyone we met this weekend did.
Flash forward about 20 years to last night. We sat next to a couple from Rolla, Missouri, who saw the band during the Slippery When Wet tour. And on the other side sat folks from Texas who cut their teeth on New Jersey. I stood in line for the bathroom with women who were on their fourth show this year, in town from Kansas. We stood behind women holding signs begging Jon to sing Damned; after I saw him work the maracas I was glad he obliged. I got a note through to my friend Tammy’s buddy who tours with the band and asked for Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night, Who Says You Can’t Go Home and Happy Now. They played them all. (I like to think the note got through and Jon was all, “For Crystal, I’ll do anything.” A girl can dream.) We walked back to our hotel with folks who flew in from Iowa. And we rode to the airport with guys who came from Arkansas and Tennessee; they last saw Bon Jovi open up for the Scorpions right after Runaway hit. This is a long-term relationship we’re in with this band. It was great to meet so many who sing along to the anthems I like to sing along to. Even the TSA agent at O’Hare was in the tribe. She went Friday night and loved it. So if you read a bitchy review of a Bon Jovi show from some snobby rock critic, know that they just don’t get it. Bon Jovi delivers songs about love, survival, home, fighting, living and dying with rock star flair. They’ve seen a million faces. And they’ve rocked them all.
The boys from New Jersey didn’t hit the stage cold. The sold out crowd was suitably warmed up. First up was a band I’d never heard of but thoroughly enjoyed called The Worsties. Their lead singer reminded me of Debbie Harry and Gwen Stefani with her punk-pop energy and confidence. I don’t think their song Let’s Go is out yet, but it rocks. “Let’s go, let’s go, L-E-T-S-G-O” is an earworm hook. The Worsties bassist has a really pretty blue guitar and he knows what to do with it.
Cue Don’t Stop Believin' and prepare for the happening that is Kid Rock live. That man is crazy good in concert. At one point he had the whole place singing his name in a cool call and response: Kid. Rock. Rock. Kid. Rock. Rock. He was all over the stage, playing every instrument, including scratching on turntables, while pouring a shot of Jim Beam. My favorite part of his set was when he did So Hott and sold that line “I wanna fuck you like I’m never gonna see you again” over a funk-nasty guitar riff. It was sexy as hell, an achievement for a man who needs to eat more to fill out his jeans. I’ll forgive him for inviting the Blackhawks onstage to hoist the Stanley Cup and be adored. But only because I got to see the Cup itself up close. Yo, St. Louis Blues, y’all need to go get that trophy!
Then the sun went down. The air was thick with anticipation. And the mother of all opening montage light shows began with video of Bon Jovi walking through The Circle tunnel in moody blue. The music builds. Then Jon appeared: “What would you say to me. If I told you I had a dream …” I grabbed Shark-Fu and was all “OMG! They’re playing Happy Now! I love that song! Whooaaaa!!!” She laughed and it was on. Jon worked a white mic stand and seems to be mostly over his leg injury. He told us to get up out of our seats like we weren’t already standing and dancing and singing. It was a party y’all.
I went to the pisser during Bad Medicine and was on my way back, walking by the circular ramp area, when Richie took the spotlight for a terrific gospel rendition of Lay Your Hands on Me. I noticed bitches crowding the ramp. Trusting the wisdom of crowds, I found a patch near a security dude and stood my ground, iPhone in hand to catch whatever was gonna happen next. Then Jon emerged on the ramp in a new outfit with a black guitar and did a cover of Turn The Page with Kid Rock. Then a mini-acoustic set broke out with the band on the circle ramp. I hung out, semi-blinded by the spotlight on Jon. (We were behind the band when they were on the ramp.) Richie turned around and smiled at me. I’m serious. It was a moment.
They did Have a Nice Day, Who Says You Can't Go Home and Someday I'll Be Saturday Night. Happy happy, joy joy. Then Jon said, "G'Night!" But we all knew that was bullshit. They went away, Jon changed into a blue tank that matched his eyes, and they came back for an encore.
The encore was epic, yet for some fans, I’m sure it was controversial because it wasn't a hit parade. They did Dry County, a long moody song with a terrific chorus. This song is best live. Jon was feeling it. I was feeling it. He pushed the crowd to join him in the tale of a boom town gone bust. They followed that up with Wanted Dead or Alive, I Love This Town and the epic closer, Livin' on a Prayer. I would have put Keep the Faith in instead of I Love This Town, but Jon was masterful all night – in good voice, dramatic, beautiful – so I’ll just say thank you for a wonderful night.
If you can’t tell, I’m in a terrific mood. I’m off to sing Livin' on a Prayer in the shower at the top of my lungs. I’m turning 39 this week. And to quote a Bon Jovi lyric, I’m not old. I’m just older.