The Bon Jovi Circle tour for 2010 ended in Sydney, Australia. I had bought a ticket for a Melbourne show, and then decided to pay $1000 to be “in the circle,” which meant I had to go to Sydney. Then, at the last minute, the scalpers started to sell what they had left at half price, so I bought a ticket to the Saturday show, as well. I’d read some set lists online, and I knew they were alternating between “Runaway” one night and “Dry County” the next, and I wanted to hear both songs.
The first night, I missed my early flight to Sydney and had to buy another one, not a great start. I basically lost the money I’d saved on the cut price ticket. My seat was on the edge of the ‘diamond’ section ($300 a ticket). It was a far from great ticket, but it was a bit past the half way mark of the venue (a football stadium). I don’t know why they played there and not in the arenas in the Olympic park, where AC/DC and Metallica played. This venue was open air, had limited facilities, and had a 10:30 curfew. I guess they got it cheaper or something. The following night I had bought a package that got me a meal before the show, seats in the second row, and a messenger bag, autographed program, and a voucher for $100 in merch. However, I am a bit of a merch whore, and I could not resist buying some stuff the first night, especially the “Sydney Sold Out” shirt, in case it ran out, given that it must have been printed for Sydney only. I knew it was not exactly true (they sold the last tickets for $49 and in the end gave some away), but still, it’s a decent shirt to have. They also had patches, which I thought was odd, who but heavy metal fans sew on patches, and I thought Bon Jovi tried to pretend they’d never try to qualify as metal. I wish Metallica had had patches for sale, as well as necklaces, badges, mouse mats, etc. The one that got me was, if you bought a ton of merch and wanted a bag to put it in, you needed to pay $15 for a cheap bag with Bon Jovi written on it.
Obviously, the audience was a lot more weight towards girls than what I am used to at a metal show, and there was a constant queue for the ladies toilets. Every time I went to the mens, some guy would be ferrying in his girlfriend/wife to use the mens toilets, which were always close to empty. In keeping with my surprise that Bon Jovi seem to be working less than in the past to pretend they were never glam metal, the opening act was actually pretty heavy and they sounded at times like the worst of a mid 80s metal garage band. The guy on stage claimed they have a deal and an album coming out, so I guess the music industry is still dying. I wore a Metallica shirt to the show and was surprised to hear people say things like “He’s at the wrong show.” I guess some people really DO just listen to one style of music their whole life.
So, one with the show. The first song was “Last Man Standing.” The last Bon Jovi album I loved was Keep the Faith, These Days, had some good songs but was not a great album for me, and it just got worse from there. I admit, I am listening to The Circle as I write this, and there are definitely a bunch of newer songs I came to like from hearing them live, but the two shows were still for me a mix of singing along loudly to older songs and standing with my hands folded waiting to see if I liked newer ones at all, and knowing I’d never like them like I do the older ones. A lot of the crowd was younger though; the two girls who kept screaming for Richie Sambora to take his clothes off could not have been older than 22, for example. After starting with a song I frankly did not know (although some around me plainly did), they hit us with the one/two punch of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Born To Be My Baby.” The next track was “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” which is the single off of The Circle, and one track I came to like. Tracks like “Just Older” and “Superman Tonight,” however, are songs I know but I don’t think are strong enough to feature live like this. Not when you have singles that you miss out on.
“It’s My Life” is obviously a big Bon Jovi song, cut from the same template as “Livin’ On A Prayer,” which it even name checks. “No Apologies” and “We Got it Going On” are two newer songs (the first is from the Best Of ), which I really liked both nights. “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” turned in to “Rockin’ All Over the World” and I noticed that Bon Jovi actually takes a few guitar solos on stage nowadays, I don’t know if he played the solo on the album, but I suspect not. “Bad Medicine” was next, and rolled in to “Pretty Woman.” They turned that song in to a different classic rock n' roll cover every night from what I can tell. Apparently the band had spoken to some fan club members in the afternoon and asked what rare songs they’d like to hear, which is why instead of singing “Lay Your Hands On Me,” Richie was next singing “Homebound Train,” which was apparently the b-side to “I’ll Be There For You.” Given how utterly awful at least 2/3 of New Jersey was, I was amazed that such a strong song was a b-side. It then obviously cool for them to roll it out. From there they did “Living in Sin” and switched to acoustic for “Never Say Goodbye,” “Love for Sale,” and “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night.” “Love for Sale” was especially cool, with the whole band out on the end of the “Circle” with acoustic instruments. From there, it was “Lay Your Hands On Me,” a rare chance on this tour for Jon to sing it, as Richie had already had his chance to sing. Then it was “Have a Nice Day,” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Keep the Faith.”
I knew from reading set lists that two of the three encore songs are “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (this was also obvious, don’t get me wrong). So, when the first encore song was “When We Were Beautiful,” I decided to leave, as I’d see the last two songs the next night up closer. As a result, I missed a second encore of “Run Rudolf Run” (Chuck Berry cover), “In These Arms,” and “Love's the Only Rule.” I was very upset to miss “In These Arms,” but I don’t get the number of obscure covers Bon Jovi does. I guess at least they didn’t do “My Ding A Ling,” but I am a big Chuck Berry fan, and I don’t even know that song. Either way, so long as they are skipping some hits, they don’t need to have four cover songs in a set list, in my opinion. The following night, I was hoping they’d play longer, and do “Dry County” and “Runaway,” as they’d done neither the night before. Apparently, none of the songs I’d have tended to ask for, we requested (for the record), “Runaway,” “In and Out of Love,” “Tokyo Road,” “Let it Rock,” “Social Disease,” “Women in Love,” and “Blame It on the Love of Rock n' Roll”). I arrived at 4:30 to be lead to the dinner, which turned out to be finger foods, but was actually pretty decent. I did question the wisdom of free alcohol for two hours before the show to the people closest to the band, but, whatever. Some people definitely looked tanked. To add insult to injury, it proceeded to get wet and windy. My messenger bag was quite nice, but it turned out my $100 of merch took the form of a card usable on the website (meaning I had to wait, could only get tour stuff left over after the shows, and had to include postage in that cost). So I was glad I’d bought my stuff before.
Being up close was a whole lot better, obviously, but I was hard right, meaning that my view was across the stage, so I could see Jon, but not Richie for most of the night. I also did not realize that as well as a bass player who is, in theory, not in the band, they have a third guitarist (in that Jon is no slouch on guitar now), who also sings a lot of backing. Here are the songs I heard the second night that were not played the first:
Raise Your Hands
Thorn in My Side
Blaze of Glory
Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
Bad Medicine / Roadhouse Blues
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)
What Do You Got?
Squeeze Box (The Who cover) (acoustic)
Something to Believe In
Someday I'll Be Saturday Night
I Love This Town
Wanted Dead or Alive
Livin' On A Prayer
One thing I have to mention, Jon made a huge deal out of not caring that he was playing in the rain, which was a steady drizzle. During the cover of “Hallelujah,” as he got to the climactic note, he hit it, and at precisely that moment, the skies just opened up and it poured. I know they have a lot of money, but I have no idea how they coordinated that...Thankfully, I’d run back out during “Captain Crush and the Beauty Queen from Mars” and bought some ponchos, one for me and one to protect my Bon Jovi bag, which I’d been told was cheaply made and would discolor in rain.
I do have to say that playing for 2 ½ hours represents a good value show, despite the high prices and I guess it’s the way they manage to justify so many covers, so many new songs and still do a good smattering of older hits. You’ll notice I did not get to hear “Runaway,” but “Raise Your Hands” was on my list, too, so that made up for it. One thing I have to say about seeing Bon Jovi so close is how clinical and calculated the whole show felt. For example, the woman in front of me had a huge bunch of red roses to give to Jon. She spent the last three songs trying to get his attention and in the end threw them up on stage after he walked off, because he never noticed she was there. When he walked past us on the catwalk, people flocked to put their hands up to high five him and he appeared to not even notice, let alone participate. I got the feeling that his shows are done on a sort of autopilot, with the focus on what looks good for the cameras, not on any actual connection with the crowd. In the same way, Jon thanked us for spending our “hard earned money” to come out and see them, but, he’s the one who decided that the only decent seats were $1000-$2000, and that any seat that could remotely see them enough to know who was who, were $300. In comparison, I was right in front of Metallica for $150. Also, in comparison, during the Metallica show, they would constantly interact with fans, even Lars was running forward between songs to high five people, and they spent a good half hour after the show handing out picks, etc. In comparison, I did not see Richie throw out a single pick. Bon Jovi are obviously masters of stadium rock, and they have the songs to back it up, and they are certainly generous with their time, but at the end of the day, I felt like they were all business decisions, I didn’t feel like there was anything like the concern for fans shown by other bands I’ve seen of late. I know that a band like Accept can easily meet fans, they are playing to 200 people, not 40,000. Metallica, however, are in the same league and did it with a lot more class, in my view.
Sadly, the voucher I was given for $100 on the Bon Jovi store does not work, it keeps giving me bogus error messages. I'd have thought with the amount of money they make, they could afford a competent webmaster, and perhaps even a web store that is functional.