Still keeping the faith after 20 years

Jon Bon Jovi struggled to hit the high notes, but he worked the stage and the crowd like a consummate professional.
Jon Bon Jovi struggled to hit the high notes, but he worked the stage and the crowd like a consummate professional.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

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, 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 same 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.



    Padang Stage


The rest of the band, including original members Tico Torres (drums) and curly-haired David Bryan (keyboards), were his supporting cast.

Lead guitarist Richie Sambora, Bon Jovi's other leading star and Jon's long-time songwriting partner, left the band in 2013, 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 lesserknown 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 of 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 a 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 "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 is, using maracas will give anyone's 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 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 for the audience to Keep The Faith.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Still keeping the faith after 20 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe