The insanely hectic gig schedule of early June in Helsinki didn't affect the sales of Bon Jovi tickets, who were said to have sold out the Olympic Stadium. I say "were said to have sold out" because even a day before the gig there were plenty of tickets available, and during the gig there seemed to be plenty of available seats in several sections. I can't imagine that all of the ticketholders of those seats were having a beer or something at the same time... but make no mistake about it, the gig was a success whether it was actually sold out or not, around 40.000 people were making a lot of noise for those New Jersey boys.
We didn't arrive to the stadium early enough to catch the first support act BLOCK BUSTER, who had won their slot in a competition. They couldn't have been any worse than the tiresome Danish second support act THE BREAKERS, who I had to endure for a couple of songs. Guys in suits trying hard to look retro and hip at the same time, playing boring 60'ies and 70'ies influenced rock. It would have been nice to see another worthy act to get this gig, maybe a band that would have actually appealed to Bon Jovi's audience? I guess their brand of retro-rock would appeal to the like-minded in a pub setting, but on a big stage they seemed a bit out of place.
As the start of the show came closer, the heavens opened wide and it started to rain. I was sitting comfortably in the covered part of the stadium, but sent a few warm thoughts for our photographer Mira, who has probably at that moment trying to put on a disposable raincoat and keep the camera away from the rain. Poor thing...
As it is stated by the laws of entertainment, "before any concert, at least one AC/DC song must be aired via the P.A., preferably just before showtime". This show was no different, and soon the last notes of Accadacca faded away. The silhuettes of the four Bon Jovi members were shown on the screen, and most of the 40.000 people in the crowd said "YEEEEEEEEEA". The "backing band" made their entrance to the stage, with David Bryan (keyboards) and Tico Torres (drums) taking their battle stations, both of them neatly covered. The hired hands, Hugh McDonald (bass) and second guitarist Bobby Bandiera had to settle for slightly less covered slots on stage, while the frontmen Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora bravely stood in the frontline and endured the pouring rain. Not without consequences, but we'll get to that in a while.
A olden goldie from the "Slippery When Wet" album opened the show, and it looked pretty cool when a lot of people, well, "Raised Their Hands" at the same time. A rousing start for the show, followed by another "SWW" track and a major crowdpleaser, "You Give Love a Bad Name". The audience was going positively nuts, but JBJ and co. just threw more fuel to the flames and kicked off "Born To Be My Baby", a song that got a nearly hysterical reception.
It had to end and end it did, despite the next song being one of the recent hits. The crowd visibly calmed down when the band played "We Weren't Born to Follow", and first signs of the exodus towards the bars were to be seen. I like the song as I like the one they played next, the melancholic "In These Arms", but it didn't set the crowd on fire either. The title track from the band's rather average country-tinged "Lost Highway" album got a bit stronger reaction, possibly because it was bit more uptempo. Thank god there were no violin or fiddle players on stage! By now it was pouring quite heavily, and Jon said that "yesterday evening we were enjoying the sun, no we're taking a shower with fourty-thousand of our closest friends!". Classic.
"It's My Life" envigorated the audience again, the ones in the bar rushed back to their places and then it was a major singalong time. The band might have been a bit surprised that their first hit "Runaway" got as good as a reception as the biggest hits of the show, but the song is still a radio staple here in Finland and loved by many. A surprise for me was the fact that Jon played the guitar solo on it. The football anthem "We've Got It Goin' On" kept the energy level quite high, but why the band insist on keeping "Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars"? It is just not a very good song, and again an exodus took place.
"Bad Medicine" brought us back to "New Jersey" (the album), and some of those who had headed towards the bar decided that they weren't so thirsty after all. This rendition of the song contained a little bit The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" ("gimme something nasty", Jon snarled to the guitarists, who obliged and played this one) and the old fifties' hit "Shout" by The Isley Brothers. This extended version managed to hold the attention of the crowd, but it started to wane as the band entered the Midtempo City. The latest album's "Love's The Only Rule" could have been the song to end the whole set as Jon slipped and hurt his knee during it. I didn't even notice it as I was trying to get a photo of the screen with my cell phone or writing something down, but it's there on YouTube if you want to see it... Truckloads of respect for Mr. Bongiovi for carrying on, a normal "soldier" would've headed straight to the doctor and asked to be relieved of duty!
"Love's The Only Rule" and the following "When We Were Beautiful" with their U2/Coldplay-leanings represent the rather sad state of Bon Jovi's songwriting nowadays, and I wasn't alone thinking this, as athmosphere of the whole stadium changed. A couple of classic Bon Jovi ballads helped, especially when JBJ and Richie Sambora used the circle-shaped catwalk and went closer to the fans. I was hoping to hear Sambora sing "I'll Be There For You" as he's done on the previous tour, but he didn't, Jon has "taken it back" for whatever reason.
"Who Says You Can't Go Home" might have been a huge hit in the States, but here it didn't make a sizeable splash, hence its' lukewarm welcome. I guess the people were waiting the band to rock it up, as "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" got 'em jumping again. In its' afterglow, the new song "No Apologies" from the "Greatest Hits" went down ok, as did "Have A Nice Day" and the set closer "Keep The Faith".
We wanted more and we told them that loudly... and we got more. One of the better new tracks, "Thorn In My Side" was the first of the encores. An okay song, but it pales in comparison to THE Cowboy Song of the eighties, "Wanted Dead Or Alive". A setting sun on the prairie was projected on the screen, as the two outlaws and the choir of 40.000 singers performed this ballad. I'm actually not the biggest fan of this song, but it was a fine moment. However, the pinnacle of the show for me were the last two songs, a perfect ending to a great concert. First, a long-time personal favourite of mine, the utterly awesome "Wild Is The Wind"... I imagine a lot of the casual fans didn't know it as it was never a single, but I didn't care, cold chills were going down my spine. The last song of the set was the inevitable, immortal "Livin' On A Prayer" and what can I say but "Whoooooah"! I guess by now everyone was on their feet and singing along, even us stone-cold critics. And why not, in my books that song qualifies as one of the best ever, and I've heard a few. The bassline, the talk-box, the lyrics, the chorus, the keyboards, the solo, the modulation in the end... perfection.
Raise Your Hands
Thorn in My Side
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
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