City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Bon Jovi: Sweaty, energetic, people-pleasing rockers

Photo: Kevin Westenberg

Photo: Kevin Westenberg

Any skeptics wondering how Bon Jovi, a band nearly 30 years into its career, could have posted the highest grossing tour of 2010 got their proof Saturday night.

 As frontman Jon Bon Jovi has noted, a string of musical fads have exploded and dissolved in three decades, yet the Jersey boys once regarded as a disposable hair band continue to add to their 130 million in worldwide album sales and string of sold out arena dates.

 At Philips Arena Saturday, Jon and bandmates Tico Torres and David Bryan, plus Hugh McDonald, the band’s bassist since 1994, and Phil “X” Xenidis, filling in for rehabbing Richie Sambora, proved to nearly 20,000 in the sold-out crowd exactly why Bon Jovi has maintained such a lofty level of success.

 They’re an endlessly entertaining, sweat-dripping, hard-working, people-pleasing rock band. And with Aerosmith, Springsteen and The Rolling Stones sidelined at the moment, no veteran act – aside from perhaps U2 – can touch Bon Jovi live.

 Opening their  2 ½-hour set with “Lost Highway” and jukebox staple “You Give Love a Bad Name,” the band sounded tight and polished. Jon hardly looks like a guy on the cusp of 50 with his model-handsome appearance, boyish stage demeanor and exhausting stage workout. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll ballerina who might have something in common with Dorian Gray.

 And with the absence of Sambora, it appeared he took on more heavy lifting by playing lead electric guitar on a couple of songs, even soloing at the end of “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

 Speaking of Sambora, let’s address that elephant in the room. Yes, he was missed. Xenidis, whose pedigree includes time with Triumph, Alice Cooper and Daughtry, is indisputably a perfect fill-in, adroitly aping Sambora’s licks in “Born to Be My Baby” and filling in the blanks on “Wanted Dead or Alive,” always a duet of sorts between Jon and his fellow cowboy.

 But seeing Bon Jovi without Sambora would be like Aerosmith without Joe Perry or the Stones minus Keith Richards. Fabled guitar/singer teams are reason enough for fans to spend a hundred bucks on a concert ticket, and while Jon is the centerpiece of Bon Jovi, Sambora is a necessary presence for the real magic to occur, especially when the two play off each other onstage.

 Opting to tour without him is a direct contradiction of the brotherhood credo endlessly spouted by Bon Jovi, but the oft-troubled guitar hero created a quandary for his bandmates. If they postponed the tour and waited for him, it would have been a logistical nightmare fraught with disappointed fans, many of whom make specific travel arrangements to see the band.

 But by doing what they are – and Jon Bon Jovi is an ultimate show-must-go-on-er – the concert seemed a little less…complete.

 But for anyone griping that Jon didn’t mention Sambora, aside from telling the crowd, “Let’s send this one out to brother Richie,” before “Livin’ on a Prayer,” the singer didn’t say much at all, period, during this spirited night of singalongs, so there shouldn’t have been any expectation of spotlighting Sambora’s absence.

 “I’m not gonna waste a lot of time talkin’. Let’s just get to the sweatin’ part,” he said early in the show, as a way of introducing the punchy “It’s My Life.” That, and several gracious “thank you”’s, fulfilled any talking obligations.

 But whether bringing fans back in his “time machine” for the keyboard plinking “Runaway” or cruising through the band’s most recent hit, “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” stocked with Bon Jovi’s usual mellow rebellion and an anthemic chorus tailored for hands-in-the-air singing, Jon sounded robust – a little gravelly at times, but always real.


Photo credit: AP

Photo credit: AP

His visit to the front of a circular ramp corralling those who spent super big bucks on tickets found him murmuring the tender ballad, “(You Want to) Make a Memory” and spreading a bit of cheese with the melodramatic “Bed of Roses,” during which he did his politician stroll around the ramp, shaking hands and kissing a breathless blond.

 Before launching into “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which he dedicated to Atlantan Jennifer Nettles, his duet partner on the recorded version whom he jokingly called his “girlfriend,” Jon planted his hands on his hips, surveying the crowd with a satisfied smile.

 At Bon Jovi’s level of success, it’s sometimes difficult to still view the band as patron saints of the blue collar set, which makes a song like “Work for the Working Man” ring a little hollow when coming from self-made gazillionaires.

 It’s the same problem some might have listening to Springsteen, too.

 But, as the band demonstrates through their philanthropic efforts and with Jon’s involvement in causes such as this, there is more to them than fluffy hair and a talent for crafting catchy pop-rock tunes.

 They are an old-fashioned breed of rock star, and, judging from the superior level of showmanship and musicianship on display this weekend, they might have hit a new peak.


Set list

  • Lost Highway
  • You Give Love a Bad Name
  • Born to Be My Baby
  • We Weren’t Born to Follow
  • Runaway
  • It’s My Life
  • Work for the Working Man
  • We Got it Going On
  • Bad Medicine/Hot Legs/Shout/Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Lay Your Hands on Me
  • (You Want To) Make a Memory
  • Bed of Roses
  • I’ll Be There for You
  • Who Says You Can’t Go Home
  • I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead/Start Me Up
  • Blood on Blood
  • Have a Nice Day
  • Keep the Faith


  • When We Were Beautiful
  • Wanted Dead or Alive
  • Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night
  • Livin’ on a Prayer

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38 comments Add your comment


May 15th, 2011
8:35 am

Even sans Ritchie, It was truly a phenomenal performance. Could you post some pictures of the concert?


May 15th, 2011
10:06 am

Awesome concert…I am an original fan from the 80s and think they are still just as good as they were back in the day.


May 15th, 2011
10:49 am

@Carlos, check, they posted some pictures. The concert was freaking fantastic last night. Yes, Richie was missed – but I am so happy they did not cancel. What a night!!!

Ami Bombardieri

May 15th, 2011
10:58 am

Also being a fan since the 80’s, I believe the band just gets better w/ age. JBJ is amazing!


May 15th, 2011
11:15 am

This was not a concert. It was a show. A great show! A performance in every sense of the word. It’s no wonder Jon is an actor as well because he’s great at playing to the crowd. Loved the imitation of Mick Jagger! I never knew Jon was such a great guitar player, and the guy who filled in for Richie was spot on.

Yeah, Richie was missing, but they didn’t miss a beat without him. The author of this article missed a very important comment from Jon when he also stated that “we are a man down tonight,” and if that didn’t speak volumes about Sambora missing and what he means to Jon, than nothing is going to. I don’t know where she gets this “But for those griping that Jon didn’t mention Sambora” business. What’s he supposed to do, stop down the whole show, draw attention to the fact that Sambora was missing, and take such great positive energy out of the building?

Amazing stage production and set up. Simplistic, yet not. Well worth the price of admission.


May 15th, 2011
12:19 pm

Jon, we’re all with you. You are the only irreplaceable member of this band. Phil X rocks!

Julie from S.C.

May 15th, 2011
1:15 pm

He was AMAZING! He is gets hotter and finer the older he gets. Voice still so strong. Richie is his friend and he was not going to comment on his troubles to 20,000 fans. That is a true friend. He let us know Richie was missed and had his support. Jon is sincerely appreciative of his fans. You can see it in his eyes and smile. Rescheduling the concert would have saddened many fans that had already made their travel plans. He did the right thing. I love you Bon Jovi. When you are 80 and rockin”, I will still be rockin” with you! Just maybe in a wheelchair…….


May 15th, 2011
3:41 pm

I’m glad the concert wasn’t canceled/postponed and the most important is Richie is getting help. I missed his vocals and guitar but the most important he is getting help!! From following Bon Jovi since I was a kid I don’t think there was an elephant in the room and they do not talk about personal stuff. Jon even said, “We are a man down tonight.” What else is he suppose to say?

Melissa Ruggieri

May 15th, 2011
5:42 pm

Thanks for the comment, Rodney, but that was exactly my point. Jon doesn’t talk much about anything on stage, so he shouldn’t be expected to talk extensively about Richie.


May 15th, 2011
7:32 pm

I say thumbs up to Melissa Ruggieri for writing this wonderful article. We fans of Richie’s have been waiting for someone to step up to the plate with the realization that Richie is a “necessary presence for the magic to occur.” No matter how good Phil X is he will never be a replacement for Richie Sambora. Richie is a presence all his own and no one is worthy enough to fill his shoes. The important thing is Richie is getting the help he needs so he can come back more magnificent, more awesome and more wonderful than before.

Jessie N from TN

May 15th, 2011
7:34 pm

Before the show I did not know Richie was MIA. I noticed first thing that Richie was not there and that the lighting people did not highlight the replacement guitarist and they did not show a close up of his face on the big screen. I too was a little disappointed but the replacement guy did a good job. I’m sure there were many people that did not even know Richies was MIA. I did not know Jon could play lead as well as he did, very impressive.

callie akridge

May 15th, 2011
8:00 pm

As expected, JoJo was “like totally awesome”! Many have stated Richie was missed, but can take comfort knowing he didn’t leave Jon hanging, Phil did a fine job. If he can pick up the last couple of solos before Germany- it will take some stress off Jon. JoJo’s in great shape, but we half century folk have our limits.;-) I loved the robot armed,tv panels. Whoever thought of that needs a bonus. Wished that was around in Jacksonville,Fl in the 80’s when I sat behind the stage. Keep rockin!


May 15th, 2011
8:43 pm

I never miss a show when they are here and have been a fan since 1983. They always deliver an outstanding show and it is very evident that they love what they do and have the best fan base, hands down. Yes, Richie was missed but his health is more important, we will see him on the next go round. For those that follow the band know that it is rare to see or hear about them in the tabloids and have done a much better job than most in keeping their kids out of the lime light.

Jon is a true friend to his fellow band mates and an absolute professional. I respect him even more now with the way he handled Sambora’s absence. On stage, Jon talks to and involves the fans throughout the concert or they wouldn’t be selling out Arenas around the world for nearly four decades!

Bottom line, Jon, didn’t have to say anything about Richie’s absence. Sambora is a huge part of the band and last night 20,000 fans sent well wishes his way and the show must go on!

Mi Chelle

May 15th, 2011
10:12 pm

Awesome show in Atlanta! As a faithful follower since back in the day I would never turn down a chance to see JBJ live, so I am thrilled that the show went on as scheduled! Missed that connection that Richie and Jon create when they play off each other during a live concert, but Jon rocked the house in style and looked as hot as ever! Could have danced all night!


May 15th, 2011
10:22 pm

Once hearing about Ritchie being MIA I went to show expecting disappointment, especially with best seats costing $575 to $2,000 face. Left arena thinking best Bon Jovi show of 5 I’ve seen. JBJ enjoyed all eyes on him but he worked harder than ever and band sounded tighter than ever. Tribute to Ritchie was classy, Phil X a more than worthy stand in. Great energy at Philips for entire 2 1/2 hours.


May 15th, 2011
11:18 pm

Absolutely Amazing Show! I’m a long time fan and love them even more after last night!! Jon is such a great performer and an incredible singer. It was worth every single penny!!! We missed Richie – BUT Jon’s show of appreciation for the 20k fans there was genuine and heartfelt – you could tell. The production was incredible, the music was outstanding and the crowd was a blast! Best concert ever!


May 15th, 2011
11:38 pm

New guy is Phil X – check him out at I’ve been a Jovi fan for 10 years and a ‘Phil X’ fan for 7 years, so seeing these guys play together is a dream come true for me. Great choice Jon!

[...] used it. That was ignorance. Now it helps me stay on top of breaking news, sport and even check what Bon Jovi are doing to ensure they remain the world’s top-grossing music tour. Assessment on it may have seemed silly it first, but it has introduced future journalists to an [...]


May 16th, 2011
8:04 am

So glad that this reviewer “got it”. As a true Richie Sambora fan I was appalled that his absence was ignored during the show on May 7th in Connecticut. For a band that has spent almost 30 years claiming that they are “brothers” the lack of respect being shown to Richie hurts my heart. How can Richie possibly feel that he can take the time that he needs to get well (which is the only thing that matters) when Jon acts like he can so easily be replaced. Richie is more than just the guitar player, he is integral to the BonJovi sound. It is not BON JOVI without Richie, it was an evening with Jon Bon Jovi and friends.


May 16th, 2011
8:34 am

It was a great show. Phil X did an awesome job. Whats up with Jon BJ looking like he is 35 yrs old? The dude must have a strict diet and exercise routine. A big shout out to all the ladies who showed in their skin tight clothes exposing their boobs to the max!


May 16th, 2011
10:46 am

Was there 4th row and the show was awesome! I missed Richie but Phil X did a great job filling some big shoes. Jon is a phenomenal showman and it was a special treat getting to see Jon really get into the guitar playing as well as putting forth a little extra with the vocals. The night was unforgettable!


May 16th, 2011
12:06 pm

The show was GREAT. It was different seeing the band without Richie, but Jon and the rest of the band did an OUTSTANDING job. Jon is simply amazing and would never let his fans down. If he did not think they were up for the challenge, he would not have gone on. I am so glad he did not cancel. I would not have wanted to miss this night. We had great seats on the floor right outside the Circle and loved the entire show. We can’t wait until the whole band comes back to Atlanta.


May 16th, 2011
1:48 pm

I agree – this was a fantastic performance/concert. The video and graphics were outstanding. I especially like the “Not born to follow” videos. I think Jon behaved appropriately in regard to Richie. He was definitely missed, esp. on vocals, but Phil X was fabulous on the guitar. I wonder if anyone besides me noticed that Jon didn’t hit the high notes on all of the songs. I wonder if the pressure/stress of not having Richie weighed on him with this result. Certainly hope all else is OK. I’ve been to the past three concerts and will go to the next one – actually can’t wait until the next one comes around! Hopefully Richie will be back and the band of brothers will knock another one out of the park!!


May 16th, 2011
1:50 pm

PS: Jon, himself, is fantastic. So much energy!!! It’s no wonder he still looks wonderful!!


May 16th, 2011
1:51 pm

In response. Jon can no longer hit all of those high notes. Having seen them 3 times on this tour from the front row Richie hits the high notes for Jon.


May 16th, 2011
3:42 pm

I’ve been a dedicated Bon Jovi fan since 1982/83, when I was growing up in a suburb of Philadelphia and I took 1 look at Jon in the Runaway video on MTV and said, “Who is THAT???”. So, me & my sister just had to go see them again at Philips Arena Sat. night!! Probably the 4th time I’ve seen them and they never disappoint, except it really was sad that Richie wasn’t there. I’m glad the show went on, but his presence was sorely felt. The fill-in was very technically proficient but just not the chemistry and history that exist between he & Jon. Otherwise, besides them going on almost 45 minutes late, it was just awesome!!! And for some reason, the jumbotron screens didn’t work during the 1st song but after that, just sheer bliss! Jon is still soooo hot at age 49 and I loved the mixed crowd of people rocking out to a true American Band!!!


May 16th, 2011
5:16 pm

I am absolutely appalled that Bon Jovi would continue without Richie. Bon Jovi is not just Jon, but a BAND. Richie provides the MEAT of a Bon jovi performance. Without Richie the show was just wimpy and I for one feel cheated. Jon always tries to act as if they’re all friends and all contribute to the band. But obviously Jon thinks everyone is disposable but him. WHERE’S THE BEEF? When I go to a Bon Jovi show I want to see a REAL MAN playing guitar, not a MMM Middle-aged male model). Every MILF wants a MAN. I wanted a meal, not a snack.

You're wrong, Sassy!

May 16th, 2011
5:23 pm

Sassy, you can shove it. The Jovi rocked me, and they will rock my dreams. Sit and spin.


May 16th, 2011
6:12 pm

I’m completely disgusted with all the comments about how Bon Jovi shouldn’t have continued without Richie.

If you know or understand ANYTHING at all about addiction, you know that the absolute worst thing for an addict is for their family and friends to change things to make life easier or better for the addict. If Bon Jovi stopped touring to wait for Richie to complete rehab (for the third time in 5 years), what reason would Richie have to get better? An addict needs to know that life can and will go on whether they take care of their problem or not. I know that from experience, and education.

Jon was put into a situation where he was going to be the bad guy no matter what. If he would have canceled or postponed, people were going to be angry. If he went on without Richie, people were going to be angry. He just made the best choice he could under the circumstances.

Though the mention of Richie before “Wanted,” was the only blatant mention of his absence, there were several others throughout the show that were much more discreet, but also much more profound. Jon Bon Jovi added an extra verse at the end of “I’ll Be There For You,” which was clearly directed at Richie, and he added an extra verse into “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night,” which also clearly related to Richie’s absence. For the true fans, those things meant much more.


May 17th, 2011
12:52 am

It was an incredible concert. Glad Richie getting help he needs and will be back stronger for next concert in Atlanta. I am so glad they did not cancel.


May 17th, 2011
7:49 am

Only his second trip to rehab. The first “visit” was a week in detox. I applaud him for getting help for his problem. Perhaps others in the tour who repeatedly comment that they are drinking too much should follow his lead.


May 17th, 2011
9:25 am

Richie was definitely missed. Especially during parts where you are used to hearing his strong harmonies and certain guitar parts and of course the talk box!!
But even with out him they still put on a GREAT show, and the fill in did a great job too. They never disappoint and I believe that’s why they are continuing with the tour. I know they still want to please their fans even in a rough circumstance like this. I think it was sweet and classy of Jon to only say what he said because he doesn’t want to go airing his brothers issues on stage. We love you Jon, Tico, Dave and Hugh, and We love you Richie and we are all praying for you to get better!!! Great article Melissa, thanks for the uplifting words about our guys!


May 17th, 2011
11:56 am

Alison, drinking too much and being addicted to alcohol are two completely separate issues. Most of the time, if a person is willing to admit they drink too much, alcoholism is not an issue for them. Not all the time, but as a general rule. That’s not to say drinking too much doesn’t have its own set of problems, but drinking too much and addiction are different.


May 17th, 2011
2:07 pm

Agreed. I spend every day of my life fighting an addiction, but all Bon Jovi fans know that Richie is not the only one in the band with a problem. I respect him imensly for owning up to it and fighting like hell to be well for his family. I just hope and pray that the way that he is being treated (like his contribution to the band doesn’t matter) does not negatively effect his treatment. I was appalled to be told by backstage with JBJ that Jon is the only irreplaceable member of the band.


May 17th, 2011
3:18 pm

LOOOOVEEE THEMM!!!! I saw them on Saturday. It was AMAZING! Even without Richie, who was missed. :) )))


May 17th, 2011
4:26 pm

Alison, baby!

You and I are some of the few Jovi fans that GET IT. Richie is being mistreated and again, I say WHERE’S THE BEEF? We don’t need this tofurkey they’re trying to pass off as Bon Jovi without Richie.

I spend every day of my life NOT FIGHTING my addiction to the MEAT that Richie provides for the band. I am a carnivore, and proud of it. Rrrrrowwr!

Richie, baby, whenever you return to the ATL area, whether it’s with that chicken outfit Bon Jovi who dissed you so hard, or with your own, REAL band, just know that Mama is waiting, honey–waiting to slowly steam that Italian sausage to perfection. I can just smell the juices now.

That’s right, Richie. Sassy Mama is waiting for you here in ATL. (Well, really I’m in Stone Mountain but that’s close enough. It’s warm here in mama’s bed.)


May 17th, 2011
6:40 pm

Enjoyed your article. What a relief that a music scene reporter appreciates a great, straight-forwarded rock n’roll band when she hears one. Saturday was my 18th Bon Jovi show, Jon Bon Jovi is the best thing that has happened to music since the invention of the guitar. Skeptical about his decision to continue the tour without the BEST GUITAR PLAYER, Richie, I was critical of JBJ, but as usual, he is the smart one. I enjoyed every note, every hip shake, every song! Jon Bon Jovi never disappoints. I will be a loyal fan till I die. Richie was sorely missed, but Jon carried the show and wore my butt out. Thank you Melissa for a good article!

AC Thompson

May 18th, 2011
5:48 pm

Great show Saturday night in the ATL! There’s no doubt that Richie was missed. Phil X was an acceptable stand in. I hope that Richie gets the help that he needs and can come back stronger than ever. Jon’s acknowledgement of Richie not being there was classy. Those of us that are really JBJ fans knew that Richie would not be there on that night. This was supposed to be, and was, a rock concert, not a pity party for Richie. I think Richie would be glad to know that all the fans still showed up and rocked Philips Arena. I’m glad that they did not cancel or reschedule the show. I am a mother of 2 and the friend that I saw the show with is a mother of 3. I cannot tell you how much we had been looking forward to this night. We had to make arrangements for our kids and that cannot be done on the drop of a hat. It seemed to me that Jon was straining to push some notes out, not holding them as long, and taking some things down an octave. Being the performer that he is, I’m sure that he’s trying to carry more of the show to make up for the fact that Richie is not there. I just hope he doesn’t over do himself, too, but I suspect that he wouldn’t let his fans know that.