Let’s get three things straight before we begin:
1) Jon Bon Jovi does not age. The only thing separating the man from his late 80’s self is a haircut.
2) Jon Bon Jovi has the teeth of a toothpaste model. Falsies or not, his dentist did good.
3) That guy playing guitar? Not Richie Sambora.
If you could get through the knee-deep hoards of Beliebers in the vicinity of the Waterfront, the Bon Jovi fans were easy enough to spot: dads and daughters, 30-something couples, groups of over 40s – a down-to-earth, simple-looking crowd mercifully free from the bells and whistles of the Beliebers.
But there was still passion there. Whether in seats right at the back, or fighting for the barrier of the golden circle, the atmosphere was charged by the enthusiasm of fans who had been waiting 18 years for this night.
After the two opening acts (Idols 2011 runner-up Mark Haze who seems on a mission to become the next Dave Grohl – this is a compliment – and Idols 2010 winner Elvis Blue), we had quite a wait before the main men, but as soon as the lights dimmed we forgot just about everything besides those New Jersey men. Minus, of course, their guitarist Richie Sambora, who is off the current leg of the tour due to ‘personal issues’… presumably either rehab or a ruck with JBJ.
Opening with new song ‘That’s What the Water Made Me’, Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, Tico Torres and replacement guitarist Phil X moved straight on to ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, much to the delight of those of us who had barely listened to anything since Cross Road.
Flashing those astonishing teeth, Jon Bon Jovi grinned at his adoring fans and apologized at length for taking 18 years to return to South Africa. Too right. In return the arch rockers promised a seriously long concert.
And sure enough the classics – ‘Keep the Faith’, ‘I’ll Be There for You’, ‘Bed of Roses’ – were interspersed with ‘newer’ songs including ‘We Weren’t Born to Follow’ and ‘It’s My Life’. This band is really made up of true rock stars who jam between songs and treat fans to extended live versions with long guitar solos.
After 20 songs (which felt like 10), the band left the stage, and I waited in anticipation for ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Unfortunately much of the crowd either didn’t realize there would be an encore, or for some unspecified reason decided to leave before it happened. Now, I don’t care if you wanted to avoid the traffic, if you were tired, or if one of your legs had fallen off – if you have paid money and if you have waited months, nay years for a concert, then you suck it up and stay til the end. If you were one of the ones who left before ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, then you need to re-evaluate your life.
Jon clearly agreed. “You’ve gotta hooooooold onnnnn” …. cue what was left of the crowd going nuts. A mind-blowing sing-along for the chorus and then the band launched back into their most well known song – ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. It was an absolute spectacle. Something everyone needs to experience once in their life. This seemed to be the conclusion of the encore, and the rest of the audience started to leave in droves.
I myself was halfway through putting on my pouting face because they hadn’t played ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’, when Jon returned to the mic, grinning. The lights dimmed as he said “Well, you came to see me play, I’ll play for ya… we got one more, it’s called ‘Always’ ” and after that was done they finally decided that it was time to play the song I’d been waiting all night to hear. This was most definitely the highlight of a setlist that included no less than 25 songs.
As a self-confessed fangirl I’ve been lucky enough to attend a lot of concerts, but Bon Jovi put on a rock concert if ever I have seen one. For those two and a half hours, young and old were united in appreciation of real music.
“I’m not as pretty as Justin Bieber… but I’ve been around longer!” laughed Jon Bon Jovi. And after 30 years of rocking, he could definitely show newcomers a thing or two.
Bon Jovi performed at the Cape Town Stadium on 7 May 2013.