The last time Bon Jovi was in Cape Town, I was eleven years old. At the risk of giving my age away, that was eighteen years ago. The “These Days” Tour was to celebrate their sixth studio album.
I was deemed ‘too young’ to attend a rock concert and so, despite my extensive knowledge of ALL of their song lyrics, I had to stay home while my eldest sister rocked on with one of the biggest rock outfits at the time. Needless to say, my nose was completely out of joint about that but I dealt, secure in the knowledge that one day…
December 2012 and the announcement that Bon Jovi would be returning to South Africa in 2013. I was over the moon. I was going to go to that concert, no one could tell me I wasn’t old enough now!
The “Because We Can” Tour started on 10 February 2013 and was to celebrate their 12th studio album “What About Now”. It is their 15th concert tour and will take place throughout this year with an impressive 74 shows, spanning 11 months, ending in Australia in December 2013. Not bad for a group with a collective age of 247 years!
But what could I expect from a band with over 30 years of experience?
The answer: nothing short of EPIC!!
Now, before I go on I have to state my obvious bias in the matter. The songs of Bon Jovi formed a significant part of the soundtrack of my childhood. I knew many of the lyrics to their early hits such as “Living on a Prayer” and “Dead or Alive” before I even knew who the band or Jon Bon Jovi were.
The rousing support acts of Mark Haze and Elvis Blue, both SA Idols alums, served to get the crowd amped for the main event. They also served to remind me that the SA music scene is indeed awesome and that I should listen to more of it.
But the point was the main act and, if the collective yelp of excitement at the first chords of their first song “That’s What the Water Made Me”, was any indication it was going to be an amazing two and a half hours.
Start strong, finish strong and party a whole lot in between was definitely the theme of the evening. The newer material was interspersed with classics – the rock anthems that made them famous to which everyone could sing along. I pretty much blew my vocal chords as I sang along to “It’s my Life” and I, along with the other 45 000 in attendance, must have done a pretty good job because Jon Bon Jovi himself expressed the fact that it sounded like a new song to him! His exact words: “Why did we take so long to get back to South Africa?” Needless to say we were all thoroughly pleased with ourselves!
The concert showcased the best of what makes Bon Jovi great. One of the strongest pluses for the group has always been the fact that their songs are so sing-along-able, with strong melodies, story-like lyrics, elements of rockabilly and funk and, of course, the very necessary guitar solo.
It’s a formula that has worked for them for 30 years, so why fix what ain’t broke? I wasn’t as familiar with the newer material as the old but I particularly loved the title single of their latest album “What About Now”.Not only does it have a catchy chorus but also has a strong social message.It poses the question: ‘What are we doing about the lesser among us’ without being too preachy or dictatorial, showing that the group has grown from just making good music. They are mature enough to take a social stand as well.
What struck me was the complete lack of uppity, ‘rock star-ness’ of Jon Bon Jovi and his band mates, Tico Torres and David Bryan. (Richie Sambora was a noticeable absentee. He is not on tour with the band this time around due to what was cited as ‘personal reasons’).
They ARE indeed rock stars and they CAN rock but they still have a sense of humility. This coupled with a wide-eyed boyish pride in what they do makes one feel that they’re still the group of big-haired boys from New Jersey who started out in a garage 30 years ago. Jon Bon Jovi, particularly, as the front man of the group, looked noticeably moved at the crowd’s rendition of “Bed of Roses”, another Bon Jovi classic. It made me feel like I was part of something special, a once in a lifetime moment of greatness, 18 years in the making.
Jon, as I now like to call him, was a ball of energy from minute one. His energy kept me going even when my legs started hurting from standing all the time (and jumping up and down). He would constantly ask the crowd: “Are you with me? You’re not getting tired are you?” and we never did get tired. At one point in the evening he even broke out a Mick Jagger impersonation (pretty accurate too) and sang “Start Me Up” to much applause.
It was easy to see why this band had previously been voted “Hottest Live Show” at the My VH1 Awards. That was in 2001 and twelve years later they show no signs of stopping. As Jon himself said: “I may not be as pretty as Justin Bieber, or dance as good as Justin Timberlake, but I’ve been around longer than both of them put together and I ain’t going nowhere!” And why should he go anywhere? I also thought the Justin Bieber jibe was particularly well-timed. Not that I have anything against Justin Bieber…
The highlight of the night for me was by far the version of “Always” which came after the band left the stage for a few minutes and the crowd started threatening mutiny. ‘We want more’ and ‘Bon Jovi’ became the chant of the moment. When they returned to sing their most popular love song ever and, in my humble opinion, one of the best rock ballads ever written; I don’t think there was a soul who was quiet.
That song has always, excuse the pun, brought me to tears and this time was no different; but it was different too. I wasn’t just singing it to myself in my room, I was singing it with the band, they were signing it TO me, and it was special.
The band produced a 5 song encore and I kept wondering how they choose, with such a wealth of good material, what to include and what not to include in a touring set list.
Also on my mind was the fact that everyone’s favourite was yet to be played. And then, as though Jon heard my (and a collective 45 000) thoughts, he said: “ We’ve got to hold on, to what we’ve got. It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not,” to which the crowd replied: “ We’ve got each other and that’s a lot. For love – we gave it a shot.”
And so it began; an almost 10 minute rock concert experience that I will never forget as long as I live. “Living On A Prayer” indeed.
It was hard for me to get back to my real life after that. To get on a train and go home felt wrong and terrible. I am still reeling at the experience and I talk about it to everyone and anyone who will listen to me and I probably will keep doing so for a while.
About the Author: Tiffany Anne Masters is a teacher of English at Livingstone High School and aspiring novelist.
Lover of life, love and everything else. Avid reader and movie goer; fantasy fanatic and music freak.