Let's get three things straight before we begin:
1) Jon Bon Jovi does not age. The only thing separating the man from his late 80's self is a haircut.
2) Jon Bon Jovi has the teeth of a toothpaste model. Falsies or not, his dentist did good.
3) Yeah, that buddy playing guitar? Not Richie.
If you could get through the hoards of Beliebers knee-deep in the vicinity of the Waterfront, the Bon Jovi fans were easy enough to spot: dads and daughters, 30-something couples, groups of over 40s - a down-to-earth, simple-looking crowd minus the bells and whistles of the Beliebers.
I often say that my first concert experience was Savage Garden when I was 9, but that's not quite true. Yes, that was the first concert I attended, but the first concert that ever made an impact on me was Bon Jovi in 1995. Of course, I was 4 years old and far too young for concerts, but I remember my mom going and coming home on a complete musical high. That was the impact of a concert. These were the songs I grew up on. You know that feeling of not really knowing what a song means, and then going back 15 years later and finally realising? Plus, of course, figuring out that the lyrics are not actually "Feeling like a Monday Sunday on a Saturday night", and that there are no such things as "Holy Ghost ears"...
So 18 years later, here I was, at the stadium for Bon Jovi. Having seats as opposed to fighting for a barrier is always an interesting change, but it was handle-able. After the two opening acts (Idols runner-up Mark Haze who seems on a mission to become the next Dave Grohl - this is a compliment - and Idols winner Elvis Blue), we had quite a wait before the main men, but as soon as the lights dimmed, we forgot just about everything besides those New Jersey men.
Opening with new song 'That's What The Water Made Me', Jon Bon Jovi, the long-haired keyboardist, the old-looking drummer and the dude-who-wasn't-Richie* moved straight on to 'You Give Love A Bad Name', much to the delight of those of us who had barely listened to anything since 'Cross Road'.
Flashing teeth that should make an appearance in the next Colgate ad, Jon grinned at his adoring fans and launched into a speech about how 18 years was far too long to have waited to come back to SA. Damn right it was.
The classics - 'Keep The Faith', 'I'll Be There For You', 'Bed of Roses' - were interspersed with 'newer' songs including 'We Weren't Born To Follow' and 'It's My Life'. True rockstars.
After 20 songs (which felt like 10), the band left the stage, and I waited in anticipation for 'Someday I'll Be Saturday Night' and 'Livin' On A Prayer'. Unfortunately half the crowd seemed to be down a few brain cells, and started to leave before the encore. Now, I don't care if you wanted to avoid the traffic, if you were tired, or if one of your legs had fallen off - you paid money and you waited months for this concert, you suck it up and stay til the end. If you left before 'Livin' On A Prayer', you need to re-evaluate your life.
"You've gotta hooooooold onnnnn" cue what was left of the crowd going nuts. Sing-along for the chorus and then the band launching back into their most well known song. 'Livin' On A Prayer' was an absolute spectacle. Something everyone needs to experience once in their life. This seemed to be the conclusion of the encore, and the rest of the audience started to leave in drove.
I, myself, was about halfway through putting on my pouting face because they hadn't played 'Someday I'll Be Saturday Night', when Jon returned to the mic, grinning. The lights dimmed as he said "Well, you came to see me play, I'll play for ya... we got one more, it's called 'Always' " and after that was done they finally decided that it was time to play the song I'd been waiting all night to hear. Thanks, Jon and company. Though it may have felt short, I later discovered that the setlist had been 25 songs in length - they hadn't lied about two and a half hours!
And of course the next morning the complaints rolled in about the sound, but quite frankly I am yet to experience a stadium show with poor sound quality. There's just one thing I'd like to say to Bon Jovi - don't leave it another 18 years before visiting SA again.
"I'm not as pretty as Justin Bieber, and I can't dance as good as Justin Timberlake, but I've been around longer than both of 'em!" Said Jon Bon Jovi. Keep the faith, boys, let's hope you're still only halfway there.
* I'm being facetious, I know all their names: David Bryan, Tico Torres and the dude-who-wasn't-Richie.