The Spectrum Center Hosts Bon Jovi’s This House is Not For Sale Tour
This House is Not For Sale Tour
I can remember just like it was yesterday. I had saved a few dollars and wanted to buy a new cassette (for the young people out there, that is a small, double sided plastic contraption that has tape inside of it that music was recorded on). Some trendies know what I mean. We walked into the Catawba Mall in Hickory, NC, and my question to the young lady working there was, “I want something new that is awesome. What do you recommend?” She said, “I have been listening to this new band called Bon Jovi. I think you should try them out.” I took a look at the cover and saw this guy with long poofy hair and a girl showing a lot of leg in this sepia toned photo, and said to myself, “hmmmmm, let’s give it a shot.” As they say, whoever “they” are, the rest is history.
I’m sure you’re all familiar, but the band became one of the biggest rock acts ever and are coming off their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few weeks ago, which brought back Ritchie and Alex after many years of separation. I don’t know who that girl was working at the Record Bar, but she was money.
The anticipation of today takes me back to July 18th, 1984 (like I said, it seems like yesterday) when I first got to see Bon Jovi open up for the Scorpions as they wrapped up their US Tour. I am still as excited to go see the band as much as I was back then, and I did it with one of my friends who was there beside me in the pit, front row, center stage. In 1984 if you ran faster than the rest of the crowd (and we were fast) you could get in the front row, and feel the sweat of the band members as they swirled their hair and strained their necks as they felt the music.
2018 sees Jon Bon Jovi touring on his 13th studio album, This House is Not For Sale. The band released the album in 2016 and have been on the road supporting this release ever since. I was glad to see they are circling back in 2018 to hit some cities that they missed in 2017. We had a chance to see the guys in Greenville, SC last year as they were working there first leg of the tour. I thought they forgot about us in Charlotte, but I was excited to see that the band added us on this year.
The record gives us some moments with songs like “Born Again Tomorrow”, “Knockout”, “Scars On This Guitar”, and “God Bless this Mess” that try to take us back to the beginnings of the band. They almost get us there, but not quite. I can picture us cranking their tunes when we were young riding around looking for trouble, but I don’t know if the new songs would have gotten us into too much trouble or would have us coming back together almost 35 years later to revisit them. I do like them, but I feel like Jon and the band are holding something back and not just letting go and giving us those incredible rock anthems that we love so much.
In 2017 Jon had a contest for bands to enter to win opening slots on his 2017 Tour. One of our local guys, Michael Tracy, had won the contest to open for Jon in Greenville last year. The band reached back out to Michael to see if he would like to have a reunion show and take the opening slot for them at the Spectrum Arena. It was like deja vu all over again. I got the message from Mike before it was public letting me know, the call was in again.
Jon was coming back and Michael was going to do the dang thing again. Tracy brought his guys in with a different high powered line up this time to support his new album, Still Got Soul. Andrew Torres and Brock Whitfield keep the band right in the pocket on bass and drums while David Joseph Kopsick and Scott Sanders are in charge of the six string duties, with Scott adding that keyboard work that fills out the Michael Tracy sound.
I didn’t get to see a lot of the set, two songs and I was escorted backstage to wait for Bon Jovi, but they came out, looked the crowd in the eyes, and rocked their faces off. Michael and the boys keep working hard getting their music out there, and it has been paying off for them. Michael and the band are good guys in the scene, and they are playing all over the Southeast. Go check them out when you get a chance.
From our isolated backstage area (it’s not all glamour in this game) I could hear a buzz wafting through the building. Looking down at my watch, I knew it had to be close to show time. Our escorts grabbed us up and said, “You may want to walk faster. They are getting ready to start.” I picked it up and popped out behind the crowd by the mixing board, my work space to shoot the first two songs of the night. 100 yards and a blaze of glory from my spot to the man himself. As the backdrop raised up, they kicked the evening off with “This House is Not For Sale”, and the crowd went berzerko (that is one step higher than standard berserk).
My arms were a little shaky with my camera and 70-200 held up over my head. I got a good forearm workout holding that beast and trying to catch a few moments of Jon in his element over the top of everyone’s outstretched arms. Again, two songs and out. Fast as that I was on my way to the seats so I could enjoy the rest of the show. My longtime friend Eric was holding down the fort enjoying the music. He and I started doing this concert thing in 1983 and here we are again in 2018 seeing one of our favorite bands.
I see so many bands these days on my own, I forgot how much fun it is to have your friends there beside you to enjoy the music you listened to growing up. As we listened to a mix of new and old, it was just like being back in 1984. Good friends and good music, and I even felt a little younger. Jon looked like he was feeling a little younger too. The last time I saw him, he didn’t venture too far around the stage, but this time it was different. We had noticed a small stage right behind us, and as I saw security ramping up, i knew he was coming out to the crowd. He did, and pandemonium erupted in our section. One very loud and very off key Bon Jovi “superfan” took advantage of the moment to slip down the row and catch Jon’s eye. She not only caught his eye, but she caught a huge kiss right on the lips. Based on her condition, I really hope she remembers it, but that is up for debate. Jon slapped high fives and flashed his pearly whites to the fans that were reaching to touch the star. I give it to him, that was a sick moment for the fans. I remember reaching up to the stage back in ‘84 and his hand coming down from the stage and grabbing mine. It was cool then, and it’s still cool now. I don’t really know why it is is, but it is.
Jon did his best Nik Wallenda impression as he tightroped his way along the front row rail back to the stage. Jon’s highwire act looked more dangerous than Wallenda’s exploits 50 Meters over Niagara Falls. Wallenda didn’t have crazy fans grabbing at him, and “kissing bandits” in his midst, but Jon sure did. He pulled it off and made his way back to the safe confines of the stage and didn’t ever stop rocking out with his socks out. Jon did share that love on both sides of the arena, as he snuck back out to give the fans a little extra for their admission price. I for one, really love to see these folks get up close and personal with the fans. It is something most people don’t want to do, but it really made the night special when you were really able to lay your hands on him.
Jon’s charisma is still as charming as ever. He just knows how to get the crowd up and participating. Most of the night, the floor seating area looked like a sea of hands following his invitation to join him in his dance like nobody’s watching you stylings and jazzy hand motions. There are not a lot of guys who survived the early ‘80s style of music that Jon helped launch. Big hair, spandex, a good looking front man playing heavy rock with a pop flair (I refuse to call it hair metal). Not only did he survive it, he was able to reinvent himself to a point where he is not really even thought of in that genre. His brand and image is bigger than that era, and it was obvious on that summer night in ‘84 to me and my friend that this guy was something special.
The house was filled with new and old fans alike. Some young, some old, Some who were there from the beginning and some who have only heard “Living on a Prayer” during last call at their local bar on a Saturday night. They may or may not have any idea what it was like to see a young, hungry bunch of kids straight out of New Jersey take over a stage and take the crowd to a fever pitch. There have been some changes to the band, and Jon may be a little grayer and a little more mature, but the eyes, the smile, and the heart haven’t changed a bit.
On Saturday night Bon Jovi saw 17,000 faces in Charlotte, and he rocked them all.