Besides, the Lost Highway tour will always have a special place in my heart because I finally got to see my first concert, in the flesh. Here's my review originally posted on The Squat Pen vs Dullsville. I've added some little "editor's notes" in this repost.
Concert Review: Bon Jovi
January 25, 2008
By Lee-Ann Khoh
In early November last year, The Today Show’s entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins announced that Bon Jovi were coming to Melbourne, Sydney, and little old Perth for the Lost Highway Tour. It had been 12 years since the New Jersey band last toured Australia, and 15 years since they had been to Perth, but if ticket sales were anything to go by, they are still as popular as they were in their days of supersize hairspray.
So on a balmy Friday evening (which looked and felt more like mid-afternoon) I sauntered into WA’s Home of Football to witness its transformation into Jonny’s Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll. After perusing the merchandise stand, having my water bottle confiscated by officious security staff, and reacquainting myself with just how desperately Perth needs an upgraded sporting facility, I settled into my seat in section D7 on the ground level and waited for things to kick off. As daggy a reputation as Bon Jovi may have, the cross section of fans pouring in were as diverse as one could get. The audience, male and female, spanned some three generations. Some were especially dressed for the occasion, with band shirts and slogans covering every Jovi era since the mid-80s, and even a few oversized wigs and bandannas reminding us how it all began.
Support act The Violet Flames, who won the coveted gig through a 96fm competition, began their set at 7:30pm. People were still streaming into Subiaco Oval and clogging up the aisles but the open spaces and large crowd did not faze them at all. Their catchy rock melodies sounded crisp and strong (even more impressive given Subi’s poor acoustics). Lead vocalist Jackson Proud confidently chatted to the crowd and got them (or at least those who had found their seats) clapping and singing after him. There was enough promise in that half-hour set to suggest that we may someday talk about the Flames in the same breath as Eskimo Joe or the John Butler Trio.
At about 8:10pm, as twilight descended upon the hallowed turf of Subiaco, Bon Jovi took to the stage, almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule in order to beat the venue’s 10:30 curfew. Greeted with a standing ovation from fans, young and old, the band launched into a smooth rendition of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”. Half the crowd had probably never heard the song before, but no one on ground level seemed to care. Some in the stands needed to be pushed to their feet, but lead singer Jon Bon Jovi quickly took care of that.
“Sorry it took us so damn long to come back to Perth,” Jon told the hungry audience in his Jersey drawl. “Wouldn’t mind makin' it up to ya.” With that, his band launched into “You Give Love a Bad Name”, the first of a series of crowd-pleasing hits that included “Blaze of Glory” (performed as a medley with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”), “In These Arms”, “It’s My Life”, “Have a Nice Day”, and of course “Livin’ on a Prayer” and "Wanted Dead or Alive", but “Bed of Roses” and “Always” were conspicuously absent, as noted by several people after the show. (NOTE: I know Jon didn't have the vocal confidence to perform them at that stage of the tour. But I wrote this review with a casual fan/non-fan in mind and since everyone I spoke to or overheard missed those particular songs, I had to mention their absence when writing the original review.)
An infectious cover of “Shout!” was weaved into “Bad Medicine” – something Bon Jovi has been doing for years – but watching footage does not compare to the electricity of being amongst a crowd that has waited 15 years to see it. Jon handed the lead vocals to his right-hand man, guitarist Richie Sambora, for a well-received bluesy rendition of “I’ll Be There For You”. It was evident that these were the songs most people had come to hear.
Of the new material, a spirited performance of latest title track “Lost Highway” was the only song that two-thirds of the audience recognised (Not surprising, given it’s the only song from the latest album to have received any airplay here). “We Got It Going On” made the transition from lame studio track to live party rocker, with Jon replacing Big Kenny’s “sermon” on the record with his own: “Brothers and sisters, I come before you today for one reason and one reason only. I gotta know: Can Australia scream?” – Perth promptly answered in the affirmative. “Whole Lot of Leaving” provided another opportunity for showmanship, in the succinct line: “Do we got it anymore?” – a cue for Jon to pause dramatically, lap up the cheers, and offer a cheeky shrug that had girls and their mothers squealing in the aisles, before signalling for the band to continue. On the other hand, the vocals in “Summertime” were often lost in vast expanses of Subiaco. (ANOTHER NOTE: Maybe it was just me, but Jon just sounded really low in the mix during the song.)
Poor venue aside, the band’s performance was as hot as the weather. Sambora is an underrated guitarist, probably due to Bon Jovi’s lack of “music cred” among hard rock critics and fans, but his passion was there for all to see, and the crowd volume went up a notch during his solos. Meanwhile, Jon Bon Jovi isn’t so wild in the streets these days, but the maturing rock star is still prone to some silky stage moves and flashing those unnervingly pearly whites, and can still put on a great show. His vocals did begin to strain during the key change of “Livin’ on a Prayer”, but the 30 000 people singing along with him barely noticed. A silent tribute to the late Heath Ledger came in the form of Jon’s “Joker” shirt during the encore, a reference to Ledger's role in the upcoming Batman film. Regular encore track "I Love This Town" felt particularly poignant given Ledger's love for Perth. (NOTE: I think I pulled that comment out of my arse. I was actually quite disappointed when they started playing "I Love This Town" because I knew it would be the last song. I'm also not a huge fan of playing that song in the encore; it works best earlier in the set.) From a fan perspective, the set could have benefited from a few rarities; something from the darker These Days album, and perhaps the 100 000 000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong box set, but how well that would have gone down with the hits-hungry crowd is another question altogether.
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SUBIACO OVAL (25/1/08)
SUMMERTIME BLUES (Eddie Cochran cover)
YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
RAISE YOUR HANDS
STORY OF MY LIFE
BLOOD ON BLOOD
IN THESE ARMS
BLAZE OF GLORY w/ Knockin' On Heaven's Door
WHOLE LOT OF LEAVIN'
BORN TO BE MY BABY
WE GOT IT GOIN' ON
IT'S MY LIFE
BAD MEDICINE w/ Shout
I'LL BE THERE FOR YOU (Richie)
HAVE A NICE DAY
KEEP THE FAITH
SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD
WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T GO HOME
LIVIN' ON A PRAYER
THE LAST NIGHT
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
I LOVE THIS TOWN