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Bon Jovi In Birmingham.



"Caddy Set"
The music of Bon Jovi may never stand in high regard amongst the ‘experts’ of Rock Music folklore. Lyrics too generic for Springsteen. Guitar work too formulaic in relation to Slash or Satriani. Songs too poppy for lovers of Led Zeppelin. Shit, even the singing is never compared to Freddie Mercury. Essentially, it is – as a friend of mine once put so bluntly, easy to compare the music of Bon Jovi to dry toast; warm, tasty, and full of energy – but lacking that something to ever consider ‘exceptional’.

It is a bright, sunny day. I stand in the middle of what is the football pitch of Villa Park, in the town of Aston, Birmingham. This is a view people such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, will have seen many times over; I wonder how wonderful it must feel, to do something you love in front of thousands who love you back for doing it? I am with my girlfriend waiting to see Bon Jovi. For me this is the first time, for her, something she has done many times over. I ask why she keeps seeing them so often? “Because they are amazing live!” she says. Surely dry toast cannot be that good?

The stage before me resembles the front of a Cadillac, and the first thing I notice are the variation of ages, styles, and sizes of the fans around me; as well as the amount of Bon Jovi tattoos they carry. There is a loyalty about these fans; the kind 95% of Justin Beiber or One Direction followers will never know. Most have been with the group since their first breakthrough in 1983, while many others have joined along the way and never left. There are even a fair few Bon Jovi lookalikes floating around; my favourite, the skinny fella, who I thought resembled Pat Sharp more than the lead singer. Must be weird living your life as somebody else. Not my thing, but it keeps others happy – and probably ramps up his pulling power.

Between the four hours wait, support arrives in the form of beer, Kings Of Captains, a local band, and to my shock and delight, Coventry’s finest. The Enemy. An odd group to support Bon Jovi, but one who nailed their set with an intense, passionate, professional display or raw melodic brilliance; they will only get bigger, trust me. Come 7:30pm, we were given the “30 minutes countdown,” just to build tension, I guess. It worked. Even though personally, at this point I still wasn’t that into it as the hardened surrounding Jovi-ites. (Do they have a name?)

Come 8pm on the money, the main event started. As soon as the seasoned middle-aged rockers hit that stage, the crowd cheered in a defining roar which never once let up, and I was fortunate to witness pure rock royalty, make three hours seem like thirty minutes. The group went through all the classics, a few lesser known numbers for the hardcore fans, a couple of covers (Status Quo, how good is that!) And they played throughout, like it was their last night on Earth. By the time the second encore had finished, and feeling as if I had witnessed one of the truly special gigs of history, most fans carried a general tone of, “This level is about normal for them.” The toast was more of a cooked croissant, and part of a larger meal, really.

As far as Bon Jovi himself is concerned. He comes across as a man, who has crafted his trade down to a science. Yet has the ability to work as an artist in its frame - from the singing and energy of his performance; seriously, the guy is 51 and never stopped to pause for a second. Clearly influenced by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Bruce Springsteen - and living in an age where musicians seem more concerned with selling trainers, and Twitter photos, there is a feeling Bon Jovi is one of the last true Rock Stars of our time. Not another classic drug riddled waste of history, but a true professional showman… someone who simply loves to give back in performance, a little of the immense wonders life has given him already. A lot of acts treat their fans with contempt; these guys have a warm, long-term relationship with theirs – it shows on both sides, whenever they get together. It’s pretty healthy, and isn't going to change anytime soon.

And this is exactly what the ‘experts’ neglect to mention about Bon Jovi. While there is always someone else who does the separate things just a little better; and I use the word 'just', because the dude has a bloody strong voice, the guitar work is solid, and the songs deceptively emotive. When you total the sum of its parts altogether, there really is no finer band out there playing music to entertain, as a way to remind us to simply enjoy life. To consistently perform at the level they have and still do - for three decades. And to have each gig leave the entire crowd feel like it is both the greatest show they ever played, as well as belonging to one giant arse, private party - in which they are the evening’s hosts, is something remarkable. 

Their music isn’t designed to make you think, it is designed to make you dance, celebrate, and smile. They perform again at Hyde Park in a few weeks. My girlfriend is going, I am not. If I’m honest, should I get the chance to see them again? I will. And to convince someone who only really liked their music to do such a thing after one show? Put it this way; I have only eaten dry toast once... Croissants are with me for life.

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was there and know exactly where your coming from. was never a massive fan just thought they were okay went to see them on a whim and was completely blown away.

Lee Gunnell said...

I believe this is the difference. Music in my view is best heard live, and with Bon Jovi I was truly blown away by the gig; I have also never seen so many tattoos devoted solely to one group. Wonderful live act. :-)

Rebekah Tappin said...

Lee I LOVED the blog. as u probably remember from school, I am a MASSIVE Bon Jovi fan and always have been. My very first concert was a Bon Jovi concert back in 1995 at the old Wembley Stadium, I lost my voice then and have continued to lose my voice at all the 13 concerts I have been to. I love the band and will do until my dying day, I love Jon so much I even named my son after him! lol

Anonymous said...

I went to the Manchester date.. They never disappoint

Lee Gunnell said...

I remember well Rebecca, so wasn't too surprised about naming your son after him. I imagine like most Jovi-ites, that passion has not died at all. Glad you enjoyed the article. I try to be completely honest, but as I enjoyed the concert so very much, it wasn't too difficult to write. :-)

Anonymous said...

I have seen BJ twice and was only a fair weather fan...till I saw them in 2010 and again in 2013 and have so enjoyed both their shows....they work hard with heart and soul and truly love their fans and what they do for themselves and for the fans across the world :)
Keep up the good work, Jon, Tico & David and whomever steps in for Richie.....
Us BJ fans....love you then, today and in the future !!

Brenda Jean said...

Bon Jovi is my FAVORITE band ever!!!!! they are awesome to see, I saw them twice this year and 3rd over all!!!! We drove to LA in April to see him at Staples Center that was a great experience, and we saw them last week in Vancouver(without Tico as well as Richie) and they still ROCKED!!!!! My boyfriend has come all 3 times with me and he even thinks that Jon put's on a EXCELLENT show as well(I thank him for putting up with my Bon Jovi ADDICTION!!!!! :)

Thumbs up to your Blog Lee!!!!!

Lee Gunnell said...

:-)

Lee Gunnell said...

My pleasure Brenda Jean. My girlfriend got me into them also, but once I experienced the concert, it was easy to understand the extraordinary popularity of Bon Jovi. I look forward to the next time they make it to merry old England!

smallmama said...

My boyfriend never really understood my "obsession" with Bon Jovi until last july when he went to New Jersey with me to see them. He is still not a huge fan but understand why i want to see so many concerts and gets that it's the live part that keeps us hard-core fans so loyal to them!! I'll see them 3 times only in 2013, and if i had more money, i would see them a lot more!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post Lee!! It got me quite emotional!! Brought back happy memories from Birmingham. Bon Jovi have been in my life for a very long time and always will be. My partner came with me to the Birmingham concert for the first time, reluctantly may i add. Me and my brother have been going near enough every year for the past ten years but unfortunately he couldn't make it this year, so my partner stepped in as there was no way i was missing out!! His thoughts were exactly like yours, but he left that concert with a respect for Bon Jovi that he never really had. True, he's still no super fan (like me!) but he admits that he thoroughly enjoyed himself and now doesn't mind when i play Bon Jovi full blast in the house!! He's just read your post and related to it very well :-) Me, i'm already on count down until next year when i can see my all time favourite band in concert yet again :-)
Bon Jovi forever!! (had to get that in) ;-)
Rachel

Lee Gunnell said...

I just heard they are up for best live act 2013, at one of the major award ceremonies. This doesn't surprise me at all.

Lee Gunnell said...

Glad you enjoyed the post Rachel. Your boyfriend's story sounds very similar to my own, and it is nice to know I am not the only one. I write from the heart, and having seen a few artists - even major ones, who almost phone in their concerts, it was clear Bon Jovi have lost none of the passion. Thanks for your reply. Feel free to like my page for more posts of a similar vein. :-)