Bon Jovi: Free Concert in Central Park Review

Bon Jovi has done pretty much everything a band can do but they didn’t play Central Park until Saturday July 12th. In honor of the MLB’s all-star week Bon Jovi decided to put on a free concert on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park. It was rumored that there’d be close to 60,000 fans in attendance so I knew we’d have a hell of a time getting into the park. I’m not one who enjoys hassle or complications. I enjoy being laid back rather than rushing from Penn Station to hop on the subway to Central Park. Then from there we had to get checked, scanned, and frisked several times and wait in numerous lines. By the time we got into the audience area there weren’t too many people there but the ones that were there were relaxing on towels they brought. I didn’t think to bring a towel or a blanket and neither did anyone I went with. That was the least of my problems. It was only 3:00 pm, so we had another 5 hours to wait until Bon Jovi took the stage. I was betting on them not starting on time but they were in a public park so the rules were a little bit more tight. Go on at 8 and get off the stage at 10 pm you New Jersey rebel rousers!

By 7:45 the place was mobbed with people and the towels were getting rolled up and people started sneaking closer and closer to the barricades. After hearing representatives from Central Park, Major League Baseball, and Bank of America there was another short wait and then Bon Jovi took the stage on this beautiful summer night in NYC. Bank of America had such a damn presence at the show that they may as well have set up portable teller stands where people could do their banking. Their logo was all over the place, I really thought Jon would have worn a Bank of America jersey. Thankfully he didn’t and nor did he wear a Philadelphia Soul jersey either. And gee…all this talk of “jerseys” where the hell is New Jersey in this picture? He’s an owner of a Philadelphia Arena Football team, he’s doing concerts in Central Park and MSG so where does his home state of N.J fit in? They’re always singing “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” so I guess apparently Jon himself is saying they can’t.

As for the setlist for the night, you can’t expect much of a departure when you go to see Bon Jovi. They kicked things off with “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.” After “Born to Be My Baby” they rocked with “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” which ended with their version of “Twist and Shout” which is always a fun song. Of course, I prefer it when Matthew Broderick is singing it on a float in a parade. “Whole Lotta Leavin’ Goin’ On” their latest single, made me realize that they should just change the title of the song to “Not a Whole Lot of Rock Going On” because the song makes people want to go country line dancing. Aside from “..Whole Lotta Leavin” they also performed “Lost Highway,” and “We Got it Goin On” from Lost Highway. While still managing to wow the massive audience with his guitar riffs, Richie stirred the crowd with his rendition of “I’ll Be There for You.” We also got to hear (not in this order) “It’s My Life,” “In These Arms,” “Have a Nice Day,” “Keep The Faith,” and “Bad Medicine.”

The band said goodnight but came back for an encore of “Always,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “I Love This Town.” For a full set list check out my friend Anthony at The Screen Door. From there it was time to hop back on the subway and then find out what NJ Transit track we’d be on. Isn’t the train ride home always the best? Lots of obnoxious people, you get whipped around, and you’re just trying to sleep for a minute since you’ve been on a 9 hour Bon Jovi retreat.

I’m looking forward to the Madison Square Garden shows because the sound seemed to get lost in such an enormous outdoor area. There was a good amount of delay between the sound way up in front and the sound coming out of the speakers that were in the middle of the audience. That was natural, it just got annoying at times. I kept thinking “what song is Tico drumming to?…that isn’t part of the song.” Actually it WAS part of the song…just 3 seconds before. Regardless of those minor details it was a welcome feeling to have attended a Bon Jovi concert where they sounded excellent as usual and I didn’t pay $200 to get in.