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Bon Jovi - Hayarkon Park - 3/10/2015

On October 3, 2015, "Bon Jovi" appeared, for the first time, on the "Hayarkon Park" stage, and in front of 50,000 delighted spectators gave us a historic and unforgettable performance.

So it's true, we got the band way past its prime. True, Richie Sambora was missing and even two talented guitarists like Phil X and Matt O'Ree, could not fill his big shoes. True, the setlist included quite a few new and lesser known songs, at the expense of hits like "Always" and "Bed Of Roses". And most of all, it's true, Jon Bon Jovi's voice betrayed him more than once and he sometimes sounds like an unsuccessful imitation version of himself.

But if we leave the cynicism aside for a moment and see the glass half full, then on October 3, 2015 we witnessed an amazing and historic performance by one of the biggest rock bands in the world, who came to Israel to give the best show they can deliver under the circumstances, and no less than that, they came to support Israel and the Israeli audience in a difficult time, and even dedicated a song to them!

This was the band's last performance on the tour called "Bon Jovi Live!" - the band's first tour without Richie Sambora, which was intended to promote the band's 13th studio album "Burning Bridges". All demands and appeals to the band not to perform in Israel, including from one - Roger Waters, were not met, and at exactly 20:45 the band went on stage to the sound of Tico Torres' thundering drums, who also gave the signal for the beginning of the song "That's What the Water Made Me", taken from the album "What About Now" from 2013. There is no doubt that this is a somewhat strange, but brave choice to open a show of this magnitude, especially when it comes to the band's first show in Israel. But the Israeli audience who longed to see their heroes was not really interested, as could be understood from the applause and hysterical screams that the band received, from the very first seconds of the show.

As soon as the opening song ends, Jon Bon Jovi turns to the crowd and asks them “Good evening Tel Aviv, Israel! Are you ready for rock ‘n roll? I’ve waited a long time for this, baby! ... Show me what you're made of..." and the crowd really showed him what they made of with applause, cheers and roars to the first sounds of "You Give Love A Bad Name". That's it, we could declare... the show has now began...

From there on the setlist took us back and forth in time, throughout the band's illustrious career. After "Raise Your Hands", also taken from the album from the masterpiece "Slippery When Wet" Jon Bon Jovi's "Time Tunnel" counts down the time and takes us back, how far back? As far back as possible to the debut album "Bon Jovi" from 1983. Jon tells us how it all started, how he did not give up despite all the rejections and negative answers he received, how he gathered courage and in 1982 arrived at WAPP 103.5 FM "The Apple" radio station from New Jersey with the demo for the song "Runaway" and from there everything is really a history...

Then we get a sequence of relatively new songs - "We Got It Goin' On" from the album "Lost Highway", followed by "We Weren't Born to Follow" - the first single from the album "The Circle", returning to the theme song "Lost Highway" And another song from the album "Whole Lot of Leavin'".

And then comes one of the most exciting moments in the show. Jon Bon Jovi dedicates the song "We Don't Run" to the Israeli croud and says: "This should be the fight song for Tel Aviv". And we're really not running away, we're here to stay!!! Shortly before the concert there was an attack in Jerusalem, when a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in the Old City and wounded two more, so suddenly these warm words of Jon Bon Jovi take on a different meaning...

Jon turns to the band and the audience and says "Turn up the volume... here's part 2..." and here we witness one of the highlights of the performance with the song "It's My Life". The guitarist Phil X makes use of the famous "talk box" effect, it is not clear how this epic song would have sounded without it, and the longing for Richie Sambora who ingeniously had the idea of using, is only getting stronger. Right after it, comes "Because We Can" and Jon tries to get the crowd to sing with him, but apparently the park is mostly full of 70's and 80's people who didn't really know the song. We have to say it wasn't one of Jon's better performances, which unfortunately was a bit "off tune", but who cares? The nostalgic burst we experienced simply overshadows everything..

This dance of the band and the audience, back and forth in time, continued with an acoustic rendition of "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" which immediately followed by the legendary "Wanted Dead Or Alive", with a tremendous solo by Phil X, who happily chose to stick to the original rather than improvise. Just Before the song "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" (which we call the Polish anthem (-:)) Jon introduces the Jewish keyboardist David Bryan and says "your father would be proud of you for finally coming to Israel!".

After a particularly long and energetic performance that includes several solos in "Keep the Faith" the band performs "Bad Medicine" and gets off the stage to the applause of the audience that refuses to let them go, certainly not after 30 years of anticipation...

Indeed, the band responds and returns for a long set of encores that includes no less than five songs! Among them are "In These Arms" which continues to melt us twenty years after its release, the bouncy "Born To Be My Baby" and of course "Living On A Prayer", with which the band chooses to end this amazing evening.

Interestingly, during one of the interviews conducted with him before the show, Jon Bon Jovi stated "I have been everywhere and Israel was a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, but it never worked out. This time I insisted that Israel must be on our list and it happened!" It is not impossible that because of this he chose to end the performance with a promise: "I’ll come here any time you want". Yes Jon, even though you're past your prime, even though you don't always hit the right notes we want you here again, and again...

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