Chicago, Illinois - United Center - 2/26/08
By Anthony Kuzminski
Truly great and illustrious bands defy expectations, push their limits and challenge their audiences. I've been fortunate to see multi-night stands by the likes of Springsteen, U2, Pearl Jam, Wilco and the Rolling Stones over the years. Each of these acts have successfully wielded a series of shows in the same city while making their set lists part of a larger emotional arc that don't just make each show unique and refreshing but also showcases their larger catalog in an entirely different light. You occasionally see a song that proves to be revelatory and it makes you rediscover an entire album you may have dismissed. This happened to me with Pearl Jam in 2006 when they performed fifty-one different and unique songs over two nights in Chicago, but it was the performance of "Present Tense" from their 1996 album No Code that proved to be epic. It had me racing back to rediscover an album that upon my initial listen in 1996 I thought was unlistenable on all levels. I was wrong, but it took a defining performance for me to “get it”. Live concerts provide artists with a platform to show you another side of themselves and on Bon Jovi’s final night in Chicago, they did just this.
Bon Jovi's February 26th show (at the United Center in Chicago) capped a three night stand and showcased an illustrious, audacious and blazing band. Bon Jovi delivered one of the best and most preeminent shows of their career and the best part is that the documentary crew for their film was in the house to capture it! Here is a rundown of the show:
“You Give Love A Bad Name”
“Raise Your Hands”
The opening trio of tunes was as fiery as the previous nights with a week night crowd ready to roll.
I could say it was a let down, but in reality, it was refreshing to hear since it hasn't been performed in a while. It's amazing how when you don't hear certain songs for a while and how they sound fresh again.
“I’d Die For You”
The Slippery When Wet classic was reborn with a assertive and reverberating performance.
I may have heard it a million times but rotating this one is a smart move and the resolve for this number is still on full display.
“I Love This Town”
This isn’t my favorite song but placing it earlier in the set works wonders and it’s better suited here than in the encore. It should work in the encore, it just doesn’t and I’m glad to see the band move it up in the set.
“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” w/ “Jumpin' Jack Flash”
“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” is the Bon Jovi song that just won’t die…ever. However, when it works…it’s performed with rebellious rock zeal and when Sambora ripped through those opening chords of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, the arena succumbed themselves to the stimulating performance.
“Wild Is The Wind”
OK, time for me to take off my “writer/journalist” hat and put on my “uber geek” hat because this song was for people like me. On the 2001 tour I continued to miss the song by one night wherever I went. This performance wasn’t just resounding it confirmed the matchless and diverse dimensions of this remarkable band. “Wild Is the Wind” is the type of song that could convert a non fan. The song wasn’t just impressive from a set list perspective but was executed strikingly and was just flat out stupendous. Jon played his acoustic as Richie’s solo on this was luminous.
“Whole Lot of Leavin’”
Earlier in the night I had dinner with my friends Andy and Karen who saw a few shows last fall by the band that didn’t leave an indelible impression, but Karen (a wondrous well balanced person) was telling me how when the band played this song she started to cry, because her father had passed a few months earlier and she crawled inside the lyric. There is a releasing and powerful nature to the kaleidoscope elements to music and I can think of no better example. Yet another reminder of the power of music and why I believe this is one of the best songs on Lost Highway
“Born To Be My Baby”
Jon was agile and alert on this one that found him going to the back of the stage where he grabbed a mini camera and sung into it and the unique perspective was showcased on screens for the whole crowd to see. Bobby Bandiera joined him on the back platform before Jon made his way back to center stage.
“Blaze of Glory” w/ “Knockin' On Heaven's Door” intro (With Daughtry)
Since this song has been rotated in and out of sets for the last decade, I’m not tired of it and this performance was elevated by the appearance of Chris Daughtry. He strode on stage in a beanie hat and sung it like he meant it and his enthusiasm for the song made the band raise the stakes and they delivered the best damn performance of this song I’ve seen since the fall of 2000.
“We Got It Goin’ On”
One of my least favorite songs on Lost Highway however, I must admit Jon is once again nimble on stage and the band rocks this one out pretty damn well. Granted, I’d rather see “Any Other Day”, but this song does have genuine crowd movement.
“It’s My Life”
This was pure classic bravado for the consummate arena/stadium band.
Yes, it’ll never sound implausibly fresh ever again, but I give them credit for finding a perfect spot for it in the set list.
“These Days” with Richie Sambora on vocals
I’ve seen the You Tube videos and must admit, I was underwhelmed; however this particular performance was delivered with despaired vocals by Sambora that you believed as if his life depended on it. For reasons I can’t go into, the emotions uncoiled here for me tonight. Sambora’s performance exuded aching vulnerability and even though he’s a millionaire many times over, he sold it tonight. It made me think of my mate Adam in Australia who has recently encountered unimaginable darkness and I was hoping that whatever he was listening to at that very moment was making him smile because I was smiling sending good thoughts his way and knowing that tomorrow would be brighter because “there ain’t nobody left but us these days”.
“Living In Sin” w/ “Going To The Chapel” (Jon in crowd)
The unlocking of the treasure chest continues with this forgotten top-ten hit from 1989 off the New Jersey album, the performance was delivered with a rich luster as the band perfectly complimented each other congealing their sound until a gigantic crescendo that took the song into another realm. Jon Bon Jovi was on his side platform for this one, but the band demonstrated their cumulative force and how powerful they can be when they challenge themselves. As the song faded out, I was floored as Jon continued to sing the “Going To The Chapel”, in a subdued manner as Sambora made his way to the platform to perform with Jon.
“I’ll Be There For You” (Jon and Richie acoustic-in the crowd)
The duet from the audience makes this song so profoundly intimate and real, I sometimes wonder why it didn’t happen before now. Bobby Bandiera’s electric solo surprisingly works insanely well in this context.
“Bed of Roses” (Jon in crowd)
TLFR style with some nice accentuation from Lorenza Ponce on the fiddle.
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
The new warhorse but when it works as magically as it does, who can complain?
“Have A Nice Day”
A single spotlight found Richie up front and center shredding away on his guitar for a sweltering performance.
“Keep The Faith”
If there is one song in the band’s catalog that is essential to the live performance, this is it. I am glad to see it back as a staple.
“Livin’ On A Prayer”
The vivacious crowd takes the a capella bait and proceeds to lose their minds.
“Blood On Blood”
A tale of friendship and loyalty that never grows old and is always played with the energy of young titans.
“Wanted Dead or Alive”
Static and standard…yet essential, why is it the best performances of this song have the crowd singing the entire first verse?
The band took their bows and was ready to leave, but there was no way the ecstatic crowd was letting them go anywhere. The band congregated, discussed and returned front and center and even had Jon Bon Jovi electing to not play a guitar to be more fluid and free.
“Twist & Shout”
The song hit on all notes and from the appearance of the arena, you would have thought it was the Beatles at Shea Stadium. It should be noted, the first time the band ever closed a show with this song was in Chicago on November 20, 2000, arguably one of the five best concerts I have ever seen. Tonight, the crowd was just as jubilant and free and I even saw a number of people from the documentary film crew shaking and twisting on the side of the stage in a purely blissful manner as were the 20,000 in attendance.
“Treat Her Right”
The band segued immediately into this number as Jon, who was footloose and fancy free roamed the stage until towards the end, I saw this possessed look I his eyes and he jettisoned from the stage, onto the mini pit and surged into the crowd and from the appearance of things, the security crew appeared to be caught off guard by this and the followed him until he ran to the back of the arena saying “Goodnight” and exiting.
Forty (40) different and unique songs over three nights (44 unique songs if you count the partial covers) is the stuff of legend and I’m happy to say I was there to see it. They proved the naysayer’s wrong delivering three spirited, earnest and buoyant shows that no one will forget any time soon. In my opinion, get the tapes from the three nights, mix them and sell a 3 cd set of all the songs performed over these three nights on the tour, the ultimate souvenir.
I’ve been critical of the band in the past, but they delivered over the course of these three shows. I’ll even go on the record saying that the band I witnessed in Milwaukee last Thursday reminded me of the Who in 1982, a once great band who was still good but whose former glories were behind them instead of in front of them. However, over the last few nights in Chicago, Bon Jovi was like the Live At Leeds version of the Who. It just goes to show that it’s never too late to choose the less traveled road and still find your way home. Bon Jovi was and continues to be a band that is defiant, unbreakable and invincible.
Assorted pictures by Rosie Conway.