I’ve never seen anything quite like the scene at the O2 ABC in Glasgow last night. I thought I was early arriving at 6pm, but soon discovered I was wrong as the crowd of somewhat rabid fans informed me they’d been there since 4am! As much as I was looking forward to this gig, I can’t imagine queuing for 15 hours. I’ve never been so glad to get into a photo pit, as I’m quite sure my 5 foot 2 on tiptoes frame would have been trampled to death as the security guards roared at stampeding fans to stop running as they made a charge for the front row.
I guess I should be honest about where I stand on the “Richie leaving Bon Jovi” debate. I first saw Bon Jovi as a fresh faced seventeen year old at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow in 1996, and have seen them many times since. In recent years however I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with their output. Jon’s voice isn’t what it was and the music is becoming repetitive, bland and a shadow of its former self. I’m sure many of last night’s fans would cheerfully throttle me for having the cheek to say these things, but there it is. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the classics but further to that I’ve always, from day one, believed that the true front man of Bon Jovi, the better singer and better guitarist was one Richie Sambora. For the last year all the talk has been about when/if he’ll return to the band. I hope he never does. He doesn’t need the band, he has an extraordinary talent and deserves to be centre stage, in the limelight. Of course, all this was just conjecture having never actually seen him do a solo show. For all I knew he could’ve been terrible. He wasn’t. He was bloody brilliant. He sang, he played, he chatted and had the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout his two hour show.
So, to the gig itself. Once the crowd squeezed themselves in and the gig began I took the opportunity to have a look around and everyone was absolutely engrossed in the show, including one Craig McCabe, lead singer of Glasgow’s own River 68’s looking as excited as a thirteen year old girl at a One Direction concert, and Glasgow’s legendary rock radio DJ Tom (The Beard of Doom) Russell. This was clearly a crowd of Richie fans as opposed to purely Bon Jovi fans, as they sang along with every word. Richie played to the fans right from the start, telling them this was his first time in Glasgow on his own, making him a virgin.
Stranger in this Town was a standout, really showcasing the quiet power of his voice. Before I go any further, I have to mention the other incredibly talented guitarist in the band. Orianthi is almost in disguise, leaning over her guitar with her hair hanging over her face and her hat pulled low, but there’s no disguising the fact that she is an incredible talent. Having previously worked with Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper she’s now touring with Richie and more than holding her own. She took her own turn to lead last night, and I don’t think it’ll be long before I’m heading off to review a headline Orianthi show. Her voice is on a par with her playing, and that’s of an unbelievably high standard. The guitar work from both Richie and Orianthi on Learning how to fly with a Broken Wing was stunning. Next came a few verses of Simon and Garfunkel classic Bridge Over Troubled Water which segued into Seven Years Gone, in my opinion the best track from Richie’s 2012 album Aftermath of the Lowdown.
As the ABC’s giant glitterball started to spin over the crowd and the show began to draw to a close with I’ll be There for You and The Answer the crowd showed no sign of wanting the end to come. They screamed, whistled and chanted until Richie returned to the stage to take the applause. What came next was the highlight of the whole night for me. If he’d only been on stage for five minutes and played one song as long as that song was Wanted (Dead or Alive) I’d have been happy. It was everything I hoped it would be, just a classic song sung by the voice I always wanted to hear singing it. Sublime. The show was brought to a close with These Days, including a reggae twist on the first few lines as the end of tour party got underway. Then the band came together to take their bow, wrapping the show and the tour and sending some very happy fans out into the night with some amazing memories of a night a long time coming and never to be forgotten.
Set list: Song for you / Burn that candle down / Every road leads home to you / Lay your hands on me / Stranger in this town / Nowadays / Weathering the storm / Sugar daddy / You don’t know / Learning how to fly with a broken wing / Bridge over troubled water (into) Seven Years Gone / Storybook Love / I’ll be there for you / The Answer / Bad Company (into) Wanted Dead or Alive / These Days.