Bon Jovi classics set alight the F1 stage at the Padang

Bon Jovi performing on the final day of the 2015 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
Bon Jovi performing on the final day of the 2015 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Bon Jovi performing at the Padang on Sept 20, 2015.
Bon Jovi performing at the Padang on Sept 20, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
Bon Jovi played to a crowd of 55,000 at the Padang on Sept 20, 2015.
Bon Jovi played to a crowd of 55,000 at the Padang on Sept 20, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
A 55,000-strong crowd watched Bon Jovi's performance at the Padang in Singapore on Sept 20, 2015.
A 55,000-strong crowd watched Bon Jovi's performance at the Padang in Singapore on Sept 20, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The 20-year-wait for Bon Jovi to return to Singapore was not a wait in vain - the New Jersey rockers put on a spectacular 1 1/2-hour rock riot at the Padang on Sunday (Sept 20), never mind a technical glitch that marred the iconic guitar solo in their hit Wanted Dead Or Alive.

In fact, it was almost as if those 20 years never happened, for their more recent songs such as those from the 2015 album Burning Bridges did not receive the rapturous response as their classics from the 1990s and earlier.

After their last concert here at the Indoor Stadium in 1995, Bon Jovi returned to a crowd of 55,000, starting promptly at 10.30pm with That's What The Water Made Me.

While it was apparent that the band's 53-year-old frontman Jon Bon Jovi struggled sometimes to hit the high notes on hair metal classics such as You Give Love A Bad Name and Raise Your Hands, he worked the stage and the crowd like a consummate professional.

Whether striking rock-star poses in his tight, black body-hugging top and leather jeans, or engaging in banter between songs ("I want one of those cars to drive around in Jersey," he said, referring to the F1 race which Sebastian Vettel just won), Jon, now silver-haired, was the star player.

The rest of the band, including original members Tico Torres (drums) and curly-haired David Bryan (keyboards), was his supporting cast. Bon Jovi's other leading star, Jon's long-time songwriting partner and lead guitarist Richie Sambora, left the band in 2o13, but his replacement Philip Eric "Phil X" Xenidis did a fine job covering his guitar duties.

Unfortunately, an equipment fault during Wanted Dead Or Alive interrupted Xenidis, leading Jon to stop the music. "This is far too famous a guitar solo for it to go on with broken amplifier," the singer said, adding in jest that "the guitar tech's gonna have a long walk home to America".

The said guitar technician scurried on stage to replace the instrument. After which, Jon instructed the band to "start from the lick" and the music roared to life as if nothing had happened.

A lukewarm reception met lesser-known numbers such as We Got It Going On and We Weren't Born to Follow. Jon even had to ask the audience to "indulge" him in the song We Don't Run, the lead song off Burning Bridges.

When the crowd pleasers such as It's My Life came, though, and the singer ventured out on the B-stage closer to the audience, he received the loudest screams and a sea of fist-pumps.

A stripped-down version of Someday I'll Be Saturday Night let the audience hear one of the most recognisable voices in rock music for what it was, without any bells and whistles - and, boy, did it shine. Still, it was not a night for such quiet moment and heart-tugging lyrics.

This was revved-up F1 entertainment and, aptly, the real frenzy kicked off when Jon ventured into the crowd on Bad Medicine after asking (admittedly cheesily), "Is there a doctor in the house?"

He spent a good half of the song on the ground, high-fiving fans, making faces into cameras and taking selfies with fans. No surprises that the 1988 smash hit saw one of the loudest sing-alongs of the night, with the crowd crying out in unison for an encore chorus when the frontman finally returned to the stage.

That rock star moment was undercut by one of the odder moments of the night when Jon brought out a pair of black-leather maracas, which he shook enthusiastically throughout the groovy, bass-driven Keep The Faith. No matter how cool a rock star you are, using maracas will give your cool quotient a big hit.

All was redeemed in the finale encore featuring the double-whammy of Runaway from their self-titled debut album and the karaoke classic of Livin' On A Prayer, which began acoustically and, inevitably, progressed into the hard rock version.

The latter song saw the Padang crowd valiantly attempting to hit the impossible high note in the chorus. They were in good company as Jon himself seemed to struggle with the notes throughout the set.

What was never in doubt was his megawatt smile. That, and his pitch-perfect band were more than enough to keep the show together and the audience to Keep The Faith.

anjalir@sph.com.sg