In no way has Jon Bon Jovi lost his chutzpa or his candid sense of humor after 25 years on the road in and out of the popularity slot. And he can still bang out a memorable rock anthem. Last night at Alice Tully Hall/Lincoln Center, American Express presented a special unplugged evening with the Jersey-bred legend. AmEx sold tickets through a Twitter announcement at $50 each (all proceeds were donated to City Harvest via the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation), and the cardmember event sold out in less than day. All attendees were highly encouraged to tweet about the experience to @AmericanExpress. The night began with a clip of Bon Jovi documentary When We Were Beautiful, while the film’s director, Phil Griffin, led a Q & A. Richie and the rest of the band were MIA, but Jon solo was enough presence for the stage and overly enthused fans. Even sans his boys, he played the popular tracks, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” “Lost Highway,” “Whole Lot of Leavin’,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” And yes, the audience cried. Wept even.
Things we learned about Jon Bon Jovi:
1. His fans can be crazy; he knows how to deal with them. At one point, a group of girls screamed, “I love you Jon,” to which he casually responded, “Thanks Mom.” Soon after, a male fan expressed his affection to the auditorium and Jon leaned in to the mic and said, “Thanks honey.” Once the floor opened to audience questions, female fanatics used the opportunity to express their adoration, many forgetting to ask a question. The last comment came from a woman with a strong Jersey accent, who said, “I’m sorry because in October of 1986, I kind of blew you off at the Stone Pony when you were trying to talk to me. I didn’t know who you were. I’ve never lived it down, so I just want to officially say I’m sorry.” The rocker laughed and claimed, “There are couple of girls from my high school, who every Christmas, their mothers slap them and say, ‘You coulda had him.’”
2. He doesn’t read his press. “I don’t read the blogs and I don’t read the fan pages, I don’t read any of that stuff on purpose. You guys would be telling me, ‘I don’t like your shoes.’ I’d be very self conscious because I like those shoes … The truth is, if I’m ever going to say something, I can’t let it be based on what other people want me to say. After the first two records, we really, truly realized that the best thing to do was be us, come home, don’t chase anybody else, do your own thing.”
3. Richie and Jon are like Bono and The Edge. “With us, we sit down together. A collaborative effort is truly collaborative. We both play the chords, we both figure out the words, we both write the titles. It seems like the U2 relationship is similar to that. Maybe it’s just my Irish envy. I want to be Irish when I grow up.”
4. He calls the band’s blue period Slippery in New Jersey. “Back then, Slippery When Wet, our third album, propelled us to a place that was our Thriller, our Like a Virgin. We had had that garage band chip on your shoulders that was like, let me just prove that we can do it again and this isn’t a one-hit wonder. So, we went to Jersey. During a press conference one night, a guy in the audience says, ‘John, why are you here?’ I said to myself, what a stupid question. As I got older, I realized that was the wisest question that anyone had asked me in that era. Had the responsible people around me been more confident in our abilities, they would have said, ‘Go home. Enjoy this. Go to sleep for a year.’ It exhausted us. It almost killed us. We’ve all seen a lot of bands break up at that time when real success hits like that.”
5. He knows that he’s going to be remembered for “Livin’ on a Prayer” and he’s okay with it. “Livin on a Prayer is going to be in my obituary some day.”