April 18, 2017 Bon Jovi Takes Over Madison Square Garden, NYC 4-13-17
In the modern era of Rock-n-Roll, there are only a handful of active artists who can sell out stadiums, among the select few are U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and Bon Jovi. Out of The Garden State of New Jersey, Bon Jovi became a success out the gate with their 1984 self-titled debut album, but it would be 1986’s Slippery When Wet which would launch them into mega star status. Transcending the era of Glam Rock, Bon Jovi has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide, performed thousands upon thousands of concerts all over the world, and are without question one of the most successful bands of all-time.
Still adored by fans of all ages over three decades later, a mostly intact lineup of Jon Bon Jovi on vocals/guitar, David Bryan on keyboards/pedal steel guitar, and Tico Torres on drums, along with Hugh McDonald on bass, plus Phil X on lead guitar/talkbox take to the road again in 2017. The band’s first full-fledged tour since 2013’s Because We Can World Tour, 2017’s affair, This House Is Not for Sale Tour, launched back in February, visiting arenas coast to coast. A run in support of the band’s 2016 effort This House Is Not for Sale, with an additional twelve records of back catalogue material in hand, Bon Jovi had plenty of ground to cover.
Up for the challenge, recently turning 55 years old, Jon Bon Jovi and company were fired up, ready to deliver a night of music no one would forget as they reached the final stretch of shows when they made their way to New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday, April 13th. The first of two shows at the world famous Garden, both were re-scheduled from the week prior due to the bronchitis Jon Bon Jovi was fighting. A difficult decision to make, it was made with fans best interest in mind so that Bon Jovi could deliver the high octane performance they are historically known for. That all said, the house that has held some of the most legendary events in the history of entertainment was ready to rock.
Adding more intrigue to the show, the entire tour’s opening acts were local artists of the cities visited. Independent, hungry, young artists entered a contest run by Bon Jovi, and the lucky winner had a chance to represent their home in front of thousands of music lovers. A dream come true, New York City’s support would come from a local talent by the name of Oak & Ash. Coming together back in 2014, Oak & Ash have performed at New York’s most well known venues such as Irving Plaza, Gramercy Theatre, Webster Hall, and Long Island’s The Paramount.
Consisting of Rich Tuorto (vocals), Chris Tuorto (guitar), Paul Gramigna (bass), and Bryan Garbe (drums), the band took to the stage of Madison Square Garden full of confidence. Filling the air with colorful mix of Pop Rock, they played a set of original tunes including the danceable “Step Into The Light.” Catchy and stylish, the guitars were smooth while the vocals were soulful and tingling with R&B textures. Humbled and excited for the chance to perform such a show, it was an experience Oak & Ash will not soon forget, but judging by their music, they may be back again someday soon.
With the lights going dark, howls and whistles filled the atmosphere before the drums kicked while a transparent curtain draped the stage as the band launched into “This House Is Not for Sale.” Modern and toe-tapping, just a minute into the song the curtain would raise and each member of the band was in full view. From here, it would be another new tune called “Knockout” before everyone’s voice chimed in for 1986’s hit “You Give Love a Bad Name.” An exhilarating moment, the band settled in with some newer generation tracks including the uplifting “Lost Highway” and the more mellow “Whole Lot of Leavin’.” No less crowd rousing, Jon soon took a breather, making the time to recognize his bandmates. Briefly talking about the band’s longevity, it was a fitting segue into new single “Roller Coaster.” A slow build to an epic chorus, once it kicked in, the room was bouncing with Jon as he rose his hands to the air enticing more crowd interaction.
Keeping with more present material, 2009’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow” came before 2007’s “We Got It Goin’,” sandwiching in 1993’s “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” A diverse mix of easily recognized Bon Jovi radio hits, igniting a massive response was the Country Rock tingling “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” leading into the anthemic “It’s My Life” where everyone sang along. Sending shivers down the spines of all, Jon sang his heart out all while exchanging smiles in between breathes as he glanced out into the sea of people. Then it became even more personal as Jon broke down the story behind This House Is Not For Sale with the album’s artwork behind him, stating how he came across the picture back in 2015, immediately finding inspiration in it as a reflection of the long journey the band has been on. Going on to touch on the the work that went into the album and the foundation of a new chapter in Bon Jovi’s story, everyone was all ears before “New Year’s Day.”
Now given a touching and sincere look into the band’s past, present, and future, the music continued with more insight. From there it was more rocking as the entire band were as tight and on point musically as could be as they move on into “We Don’t Run,” “Scars on This Guitar,” and later on the Gospel-like “Lay Your Hands on Me.” Already covering a generous amount of material, the set began to reach its peak with older favorite “Born to Be My Baby,” newer favorite “Have A Nice Day,” the Metal leaning screamer “Bad Medicine” where Jon actually entered the crowd, and finally the arena-made “Keep the Faith.”
Briefly exiting, the band returned to the stage and Jon playfully led a brief chant of “Let’s Go Rangers,” no doubt in recognition of the team’s game one playoff win against the Montreal Canadiens the night prior. Even sporting a New York Rangers shirt, in a flash, the classic synth fired up and “Runaway” sent the crowd into a frenzy. As everyone’s heart raced, just like that, they were brought back down as Jon broke out the acoustic guitar to open 1988’s “Blood on Blood” before the entire band joined in, full backing vocals and all for a powerful, emotional rendition.
Keeping the acoustic guitar strapped on, Jon waited a moment as the rest of the band kicked into the signature western melody of “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Smiling as everyone began to sing along, before he could even get a word in, he then joined in and everyone sang together. Sweating, but without lack of energy, Jon and company saved the best for last as Phil X started the famous talkbox for the legendary “Livin’ on a Prayer.” A track that nearly everyone can relate to in some shape or form, it was a moment frozen in time as hands raised to the sky as everyone chanted the words as one.
What can one say about Bon Jovi’s live performance besides it was nothing less than pure energy. Showing no little sign of age, sure Jon is a little more gray, a little less agile, but this man and his band are all heart. Sincerely loving what they do, Bon Jovi do not just play hits like a jukebox, they offer life and hope in their shows. Now that the North American leg of the tour is all but concluded, after some much deserved rest, the guys will be back at it to play Endicott, New York come August before visiting Rio de Janeiro come September. Whenever they may go, Bon Jovi will always capture the souls of their audience, making them one of the best live bands out there.Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography