Bon Jovi | 02.19.17

Closing out the night with an encore of some of their biggest hits, Bon Jovi proved why they have sustained a 30-plus-year career.

Scottrade Center, St. Louis

The last time I saw Bon Jovi perform live was during their iconic Slippery When Wet tour in 1987. I wasn’t fortunate to get tickets to their Kiel Opera House gig, but I did see them when they came through St. Louis on the second leg at the Arena. It was mesmerizing: The band was at the top of the charts, thousands of girls clamored for their attention, and Cinderella was the opening act. It was one of those shows that has stayed with me, as well as forming my musical palette as a young concert reviewer.

Now, 30 years later, the band is back to support its latest release, This House Is Not for Sale. As I surveyed the crowd, it was pretty much what I expected: Gen X moms and dads out for a lovely night of legendary rock ’n’ roll. The stage was deceptively simple, rectangular with no backdrop. While it wasn’t music in the round, Bon Jovi was smart enough to not have a massive video background behind them so they could maximize their audience by having fans circle the entire stage. Let’s face it: For some of us, staring at Jon Bon Jovi’s backside for 2½ hours is worth the price of admission. Am I right, girls?

As a huge curtain dropped, a video montage of a car driving through the U.S. revved up the crowd. Images specific to St. Louis, including the Arch, made the crowd roar with excitement. I suppose each intro video is geared toward each town they play, a very smart move to engage the crowd. Kicking their set off with the title track from their 13th album, Jon Bon Jovi and crew took to stage to say hello.

The innovative lighting rig expanded upward to make the shape of a house. This modular lighting system was intriguing all night, as it morphed from one shape to the next while minimally blocking any fan’s view. It was good to see Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, and Tico Torres once again. A part of me was saddened by the departure of Richie Sambora, but the band endures. The addition of Phil X and Hugh McDonald as permanent members more than rounded out the group to create that signature Bon Jovi sound. Creating even more flavor for the band were touring guitarist John Shanks and golden-throated percussionist Everett Bradley.

Mixing up their set list with several new songs and tried-and-true classics, the frontman knows how to keep his audience engaged. While the St. Louis crowd seemed receptive to new tracks like “Knockout” and “Roller Coaster,” the crowd really went in on classics such as “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

It was nice to see Jon give St. Louis some love before “Roller Coaster” with a shout out to K-SHE 95 FM as well as local celebrity DJ Marty Linck for playing their music on 102.5 KEZK. His sentiments were genuine and heartfelt and endeared him to St. Louis even more.

During “We Don’t Run,” curtains fell down behind the band and served as projection screen for the lyrics of the song. One thing I observed early in the performance was that, when they projected the word “Resist” I noticed a healthy, steady stream of fans make their way to the to the exits. I was confused as to whether they thought the band was preaching politics or if they just needed a bathroom break. (Is St. Louis really that Republican?) But let me say this: If the resistance is looking for an anthem, this could be it. This was by far one of the best technical performances of the night, as the band’s vocals and the lyrics onscreen meshed perfectly.

One thing I never knew about Jon Bon Jovi was that he sings with his eyes closed during the majority of his performance. While it was reminiscent of Jim Morrison, it made me realize that, after all these years, he still gets lost in his own world during each of his performances.

Then, for me, the emotional highpoint of the entire night happened next. Jon told the crowd they had a few more new songs they were going to play and then it would be nothing but hits. He then took some time to talk about how the new album came about, and even went as far to go into what the lyrics meant to him. Music fans don’t usually get that type of intimate and affectionate information from the band during a concert. As a lyrical admirer, I was taken aback by the amount of emotion he showed towards each of songs. It was a live musical moment that goes into my vault.

After genuine performances of “Bless this Mess,” “Scars on this Guitar,” and “The Devil’s in the Temple,” Bon Jovi delivered on their promise and slayed the crowd with an arsenal of hits.

Tracks like “Born to Be my Baby,” “Bad Medicine,” and “Keep the Faith” rocked the crowd into a frenzy. St. Louis concertgoers did me proud, as they showed the band as much love as the band gave to us. Closing out the night with an encore of some of their biggest hits, Bon Jovi proved why they have sustained a 30-plus-year career: They just keep writing great music.

This might have been a more mature version of the Bon Jovi than I saw in 1987, but the passion and fire is still there in the band’s delivery. For me—a Bon Jovi fan for more than three-fourths of my life—I will always be indebted to Bon Jovi for introducing me to Tommy and Gina. | Jim Ryan

Photo by Alyssa Bardol; view full photo album here

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