Last night's official SPC attendee party took place at the Mandalay Bay Beach where, yes, there's plenty of sand surrounding the pools. The stage is also situated opposite the main "beach" area, and front row "seats" were readily available ... but they required a willingness to wade into the pool on a somewhat chilly Las Vegas evening. Accordingly, those spots were taken up by only the most dedicated of fans among the party attendees. Jon Bon Jovi remarked at one point during the set that they were happy to be playing our "pool party."
Before the band took the stage, however, Microsoft SharePoint MVP Dux Raymond Sy got the party started as the emcee for the evening. If you've been following our SPC coverage, it will likely not surprise you to learn that Dux once again inhabited the role of Dux Raymond "PSY" and led the early arriving attendees in an extended "Gangnam Style" dance party. The way I figure it, Dux can now add to his resume that he's opened for Jon Bon Jovi, right?
Dux was also tapped to introduce the band when the 8 o'clock showtime rolled around, which had to be a thrill. I expect he'll be sharing all the juicy backstage details forthwith ... right, Dux? About the band, a reminder: this was not a Bon Jovi (the band) show, but a Jon Bon Jovi (the person) & the Kings of Suburbia (the band that backs up the person on what is ostensibly a solo project). Augmenting the core players in any rock band (guitar, bass, and drums) were a fiddle player, a keyboard player, a gospel-style backup singer, and --most interesting to me-- a four-piece horn section. As you might imagine, this makeup led to a somewhat different sound than a Bon Jovi show would offer, and several of his original compositions found radically different arrangements in this setting, refreshingly breathing new life into hits that are now decades old.
If you'll forgive a brief digression, I feel as if I should mention for the record that, as Jersey rockers go, my own allegiance is to Bruce Springsteen (and to the Gaslight Anthem, but that's a whole other discussion). With just one exception (when he joined Southside Johnny at a Jersey shore bar for a few songs), I've only seen Jon Bon Jovi play at events/on stages that also featured Bruce (sometimes sharing a mic). Accordingly, last night marked the first time I've ever seen the man play a full set. It was also the first time I've seen him outside of a small venue on the New Jersey shore, though it did take place at a faux shore.
Following Dux's intro, the Kings of Suburbia (sans Jon Bon Jovi) launched into "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which was sung by guitarist Bobby Bandiera. The horn section were featured prominently on the Beatles cover, and would prove to be featured prominently on most of the songs throughout the 90-minute show. After that anticipation-whetting introductory number, Jon Bon Jovi strutted onto the stage to excited applause, and the band kicked into a raucous cover of the J. Geils Band's "(Ain't Nothin' But a) House Party," with Jon doing his best Peter Wolf impression.
The first original song of the night, and one that got a huge response as a result, was "You Give Love a Bad Name:
Another cover song followed that, with the horns continuing to add some soul to the proceedings, this time for Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Bon Jovi's "Lost Highway" followed, with Jon helpfully providing the title of this lesser-known original.
It was Leonard Cohen's turn to be covered next, with a reading of "I'm Your Man." I understand that Jon has also covered the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" with this band, but it didn't appear in the setlist on this night. By way of introducing his next song (and I swear I'm not making this up), Jon asked the ever-so cheesy question, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Needless to say, "Bad Medicine" was the song that followed, in a pleasingly horn-fueled arrangement. Oddly, however, there was an extended segue into the Isley Brothers classic "Shout" (which was quite fun) before returning to "Bad Medicine" for a final chorus.
"Somebody put another quarter in the jukebox" was Jon's cue for the band to kick into Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" next:
Another Bon Jovi original, "We Weren't Born to Follow" was up next and, sadly, the horns left the stage before it began. The more crowd-pleasing "Wanted Dead or Alive" was up next but, alas, was also horn-free.
The horn section made their triumphant return for Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," a highlight of the show and a song that Jon clearly loves to sing. The horn section exited the stage again after that but, curiously, Jon did not. I say curiously because after a big buildup of an introduction ("This next song is my secret weapon"), it was guitarist Bobby Bandiera who again fronted the band on the Who's "Baba O'Riley" while Jon, for the most part, awkwardly looked on. The horns were still missing, but Jon returned to the mic for the next song, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." I know what some of you are probably thinking right now, but this was actually a Bon Jovi song, and not a cover of the superior song of the same name by Warren Zevon. Pity.
The horn section was back next for another highlight though, a terrific arrangement of the Alex Chilton-penned Box Tops hit "The Letter." Offsetting the sweet horn parts and Jon's impassioned vocals was some very nice boogie-woogie-style piano playing on the keys. "Who Says You Can't Go Home," which was recently played in part before a national audience at the Hurricane Sandy benefit, ended the main set in a full-band version.
The two-song encore began with the tender acoustic arrangement of "Livin' on a Prayer" that was also played at the Hurricane Sandy benefit, and with the same backing players (guitar and fiddle) that were featured on the telecast. It was after that acoustic number, and while the rest of the band were returning to the stage, that I learned Annoying "Free Bird" Guy (AFBG) was in the crowd, and directly in front of me at that, shouting his lame, albeit possibly ironic, request with evident gusto. Thankfully for us all, AFBG had to "settle" for a cover of a much better song by a much better artist, the Eddie Floyd-penned Wilson Pickett classic, "634-5789." It may not have matched the version that I was fortunate enough to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play earlier this year, but it was fun to hear nonetheless.
One thing is certain though: With this covers-heavy show, Jon Bon Jovi & the Kings of Suburbia are definitely ready for their Vegas residency.
Missed any of Bamboo Nation's SPC 2012 coverage? Catch up here:
Nov 14 2012, 10:45 PM
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