Many times I have day-dreamt about what it would be like to have seen Bon Jovi in 1986 when they were touring Slippery When Wet. Much of what I imagined is like the music video for “You Give Love a Bad Name”: 80s hair, Jon Bon Jovi’s cuteness to the max, denim and leather, electric guitars, and an enthusiastic/engaged crowd.
Although my mother has been a Bon Jovi fan all along, in fact attended a Slippery When Wet tour date, the first time I remember listening to a Bon Jovi album was in elementary school- it was a CD copy of Slippery When Wet. Then came Have A Nice Day (2005) and Lost Highway (2007). Because I was so exposed to those albums as a child, now as a young adult I still love them- I just understand them more clearly now.
After the three and a half hour drive from LaFollette, Tennessee to Nashville, Tennessee, we park under the Music City Center. Parking is ideal, Bridgestone Arena is directly across the road. Once we are on the Nashville sidewalk I start to feel the anticipation rising in me. Bon Jovi live. I am sporting a Slippery When Wet baseball tee, a light washed denim skirt, and high top Converse. It is my modern take on a 1986 dream. Modernity excluded teased and permed hair of course.
My mom, sister, and I walk into the arena. We must have only been seated for around twenty minutes pre-show. We miss the opener but aren’t aware of this so when the lights dim and the arena explodes in cheering we are confused. Assuming we have missed a memo. A large screen descends on the stage, I see the image of the American flag transform into the This House is Not for Sale house. I look at my mom and say “this is the real thing!”- kind of a silly remark now that I think about it. From then on I am completely in a music dimension. Bon Jovi live.
So maybe it isn’t 1986 but Bon Jovi is still killing it in 2017. I do not even miss my fictitious, imagination-generated version of a Bon Jovi concert in 1986. Although it isn’t the eighties, some things haven’t changed: Jon Bon Jovi is still adorable, still has the irresistible New Jersey accent, and real lighters are held in the air during slow songs. I’m disappointed that modern concert-goers use phone lights, so lame in comparison to actual lighters.
More so than any other concert I can remember, the crowd and atmosphere feels unified. The arena erupts when Jon gives certain cues. I know my ears are going to ring post-show but I know it will be so worth it.
Jon does not sing the entire first verse of “Wanted Dead or Alive” because everyone else is. Mom looks at me after this happens and says: “wow, we sang all of that without him”; and I am certain that not one person was not singing during “Livin’ on a Prayer.” In congruency with this, Jon announces during the show that this tour date in particular has set an attendance record for Bridgestone Arena.
Concert footage of “Livin’ on a Prayer” encore:
Jon dances around the stage and upholds the same energy from Bon Jovi’s earliest days. Throughout the show Jon speaks of the new album with sincerity and conviction to its message. The new songs fall fresh. There is youthfulness in the setlist due to the inclusion of many new songs.
Although this tour date is dedicated to the new album, Jon doesn’t go without commenting on past successes and anthems. He speaks of when he, Richie Sambora, and another created the fictional working-class couple, Tommy and Gina from the song “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and how they had symbolically traveled the country for the past thirty plus years in the hearts of the fans. Jon shares his gratitude that he and the band create songs that mean specific things to them but that the crowd, the fans, consistently make the songs their own.
There is an evolving sound of Bon Jovi’s music that speaks to the creative integrity of the band. In addition to their creative integrity is the clean-cut presentation of Bon Jovi. Jon is not crude on stage, nor is any of the other band members. They create a friendly, inviting, and unified atmosphere. The concert is about the music and the mutual admiration.
The set is comprised of hits such as: “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Lay Your Hands on Me,” “Bad Medicine,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Have a Nice Day,” “Born to Be My Baby,” “It’s My Life,” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Many new songs are included such as: “Roller Coaster,” “Devil’s in the Temple,” “This House is Not for Sale,” “Scars on this Guitar,” and “God Bless This Mess.”
It is not 1986 but it was an incredible night.