I've been wondering HOW to put this all into words. I'm sitting here in my hotel room after barely 5 hours of sleep, waking up feeling sick from a rather stupid combination of three glasses of wine and parmesan cheese popcorn (the thought of which makes my stomach turn now), and nursing my stomach on a banana and cereal. But I feel freaking amazing.
Why? Because last. night. ROCKED.
After anticipating this show (my final stop on the tour) for weeks, my expectations were big and my nerves were bigger. I flew into Vancouver Friday evening, but didn't go to the first night's show -- which was fine. I got settled into my room, unpacked, showered, ate some dinner, and by the time I sat down to relax, the show had started. So I couldn't have gone anyway. I had ROW 3 for Saturday night's show, and I was more excited about it than anything!
Saturday seemed to drag by. I met my friend Nozomi from Tokyo (the one who sold me her extra pit ticket) and we both walked to meet Maryann from Norway, who was staying a few blocks down from us. We were a lively trio, I can tell you - a Japanese, Norwegian, and American, strolling the streets of Canada (and spitting INSANELY hot coffee on its sidewalks...oops). We chatted and laughed and explored a bit, then FINALLY headed back to our hotels to get ready to go out.
We walked over to the arena to pick up our tickets, where there was no line and the girl at the desk asked me (overly curiously, by the way) why I was a fan, because I looked so young. I don't know if anyone has ever asked me WHY I'm a fan before...and it's not an easy question to answer! And "Well, because they're awesome" doesn't quite cut it. I told her it's been a long journey - one that started with a single song, a music video, and grew into a lifelong devotion and emotional investment. She just kept smiling and staring at me like I was the most interesting piece of artwork at a museum, and after repeatedly confirming that "it's not just about Jon?" she finally seemed satisfied and we left.
We then met Deb and some other friends for pre-show drinks at their hotel, but it was still too early to go to the arena for the show. We ducked into a flooded McDonald's for a little dinner (I still don't know what the leak was from, and I'm not sure if I want to know...) and then figured we might at well head over and start our merchandise shopping before the crowds get too bad. It was about 6:15pm.
Merchandise was quick and easy, until my credit card was declined for no apparent reason. (Later at the bar, when it was declined again, I realized Chase must be blocking it from international charges. Which is really quite good of them, but at the same time annoying, since now I have to get cash out...lol.) Then we finally, finally, descended the steps into the dim arena to make our way to the PIT. (Third row. Have I mentioned that?)
We arrived at the VERY back of the arena, and I had quite some pleasure in descending a zillion stairs and continuing along down the floor aisles, past rows and rows of chairs and fans, approaching the catwalk, happily presenting my ticket to about five different security guards, and being ESCORTED into the pit, to my seat on Richie's side....
Where I promptly stared at the stage in front of me, squealed, stared again, bounced up and down, stared again, then sat down in my seat shaking like a leaf in the wind.
Um, that seat was insane. I felt like I could touch the stage, and the coveted Bon Jovi logo-printed front row seats were merely 3 feet in front of me. The white mic stand was RIGHT THERE. I was just in shock. I bounced up and down with Nozomi and fanned my face and laughed and tried not to cry...and the security guards got a kick out of it. One in particular caught my eye and said he got it all the time, and that his mother was there tonight acting the same way. LOL! The people around us were nice, and I was just settling into my new "home" for the next few hours, when I noticed a guy talking to the security about where his seat was, and pointing at us. I got up to ask what was going on, which prompted a ten-minute wild game of musical chairs, the poor guy balancing two giant cups of beer and being sent from one side of the pit to the other, us trotting in his wake.
Apparently pit 1 WAS Bobby's side, though four different security guards had led us to Richie's (and had seen my ticket...) and after a lot of getting up and moving, we finally settled into our REAL seats on Bobby's side. (The guy with the beer ended up one seat over from where we originally had been on Richie's side.) Confusing, yes, and slightly disappointing because I prefer Richie's side...but then Nozomi reminded me that Jon favors Bobby's side. Okay. All better.
We met a couple of people in the pit around us, including tealejovi from Seattle, and saw Deb again (who was in front of us, a few seats down), and she said she had just seen a makeshift stage set up in the back - which meant Jon was starting the show there. Then I had my regular pre-show freakout about having to pee (I REFUSE to leave a show in the middle), so we ran to the bathroom and back (again, no line...what was the deal?! lol) The arena was packed, and the anticipation was palpable, so I knew it must be close.
However, NOTHING could have prepared me for the moment the house lights went out. I. absolutely. FREAKED. The screens slowly descended, that adrenaline-inducing music starts playing, and I swear I could TOUCH that screen...holy crap! It came down right in front of us! Then the images of the band appeared, then the REAL band (sans Jon) appeared behind the stage (and I could see them now, from third row, when I could never see them before!) Everyone was screaming and cheering, camera flashes were going off, the prelude music was drawing to a climax, the arena was enveloped in a roar...and just when I thought my heart would burst from excitement, the screens rose; the band replaced the prelude music; Bobby, David, Tico, and Richie were right in front of me; and Jon was way in the back of the arena launching into Last Man Standing in a spotlight.
In hindsight, that's probably for the better. If he had appeared from beneath that stage and ascended right in front of me, I may very well have passed out. I was literally screaming and jumping so much that I was lightheaded. (Plus, it's HOT in the pit!) Bobby and David's proximity were enough to keep my heart thumping though, and Bobby wasted NO time in waving, blowing kisses to, and flirting with Nozomi. LOL it was so obvious I kept staring between the two of them like I was witnessing some sort of secret. I focused on David, who didn't see me at first, but was more than happy to flirt with some girls front and center.
I had whiplash from looking back between Jon at the back of the arena and the rest of the band in front of me. Tears stung my eyes and I was shaking so much that my lips trembled when I smiled. Last Man Standing ended so quickly it felt like a blur, and then Jon was running up alongside the stands on OUR side of the arena.
I hesitated for one second, thinking there was no way I could get to the catwalk and not be crushed by everyone else in the pit, then realized NOBODY WAS RUNNING. So Nozomi and I (who were at the end of our aisle anyway) raced to the circle and watched as Jon ran right past us. Obviously the ramp is too wide for him to have reached over and grabbed our hands, but he was so close I could see those baby blues.
Then he was on stage in front of us, so real and alive and full of energy, and I wanted to scream and laugh and cry all at the same time. The reality of third row sunk in then, with Jon Bon Jovi, rockstar extraordinaire, working the forefront of the stage barely 10 feet away.
I was so happy. My heart was soaring, my jaw literally ached from smiling so much. I was in my element again - my escape, my getaway, my best therapy, and everything outside the arena melted away. It was just the band and me again - a priceless, indescribable emotion that rejuvenates and revives me in ways non-Jovi fans will never understand.
I closed my eyes and thanked God for the blessing, the opportunity to be there, and when I opened them, Jon was standing in front of us. Like a dream. I pumped my fists in the air and cheered and sang along to You Give Love A Bad Name at the top of my lungs and threw my all into the experience.
Born To Be My Baby was next, after which Jon welcomed the people of Vancouver, BC, Canada and asked who had been there the night before. He joked with the security guards over on our side, saying something about them having front row this time since they had "crappy seats" last night. LOL. He singled out some people and made everyone cheer, then promised that he had "a dozen different songs laid out tonight" and that he'd keep us for three hours. (I knew that was a lie right off the bat - Jon, you said that in Vegas too, you nerd!)
We Weren't Born To Follow came next, and I began my internal battle of trying to balance enjoying the music and taking pictures. Being that close is BEYOND tantalizing - it's a downright tease when you love photography. I was switching modes on my camera dial so fast I probably would have dropped it if the strap weren't around my neck. Plus, my fingers were trembling so I kept fumbling around like an idiot. I was zooming, focusing, setting shutter speeds, aperture, and getting frustrated because the lighting SUCKED and I couldn't get a decent picture. So I'd put down the camera and throw myself back into the music...then Jon would stand still and I'd grab my camera again. LOL it was an endless cycle for the first few songs - then I finally got the right settings on my camera for the settings of the stage.
Lost Highway was fun, then Whole Lot of Leavin' (I screamed loud and proud during "I bet it's warm in California"), It's My Life, and Runaway were all standard, but high energy. I thought Jon sounded fantastic, and the rest of the band was unbelievably energetic and into their music -- but that also could have been a new perspective from the seat. :) You can't judge the energy of Dave or Tico very well if you're further away!
Then Raise Your Hands began...and I gave up the camera and threw up my hands. That's MY SONG, baby! And it's always SO much fun to hear live. I purposely looked around the arena to gauge the energy of the audience, and the sight of every single person in the stands, the floor, and the pit raising their hands gave me chills. I love it!
We Got It Going On is fun up close - Jon loves to shake his money maker and make the girls swoon, and when he did it over on our side I almost fell over. The only problem is he moves WAY too fast for me to get any pictures, so I deliberately focused my camera on Dave while Jon strutted and swayed along the back ramp. I THINK Dave actually saw me this time (he did later, too, but I can't remember if he saw me during this song as well) and kept smiling and nodding and singing. That was fun - I love to focus my attention on the other band members, especially Dave and Tico because they get so little in comparison to Jon and Richie. Plus, I could watch Dave play the keyboards all night long.
I love the little "uh, huh huh" and foot stomp/dance following WGIGO, and Jon was on top of his game as far as moving his hips and teasing us women. It's the little things like that that make the live gig so enjoyable and memorable.
I have heard Bad Medicine live too many times to count, but I don't complain when I'm up close! I honestly enjoy the jukebox insert, and the play between Jon, Bobby, Richie, and Hugh is just plain fun. I snapped about a billion pictures during this sequence, so I have a heavy editing job ahead of me. They "chose" Hot Legs as the cover insert, which is a great crowd pleaser and power amp -- everyone was swaying and singing and punching the air. (And now it's stuck in my head...and Jon, I'll scratch your back if you need it! *wink*)
And here's the best part about that song. JON SAT DOWN ON THE STAGE IN FRONT OF US. What? Holy hell, I kid you not. I had tried NOT to take pictures when he came around in front of us so I could take in those priceless moments (and he moved too fast, anyway!) so when he plopped right down in front of us (and I mean RIGHT FREAKING THERE), I probably looked like something of a cross between a deer in the headlights and a stupid, grinning schoolgirl. The man was pure sweat, soft blue denim, gleaming white smile, and twinkling blue eyes. Staring me straight in the eyes at least once, and smiling like he knew just how to melt my heart into goo. And I can't tell you WHAT in God's name he said to us, or if he was singing or not, because I was so stunned. All I know is he's amazing and I love him. LOL. Somehow, I managed to get pictures of him sitting there, but HOW, I'm not sure...since my hands were trembling like crazy. The picture at the top of this post is of him sitting there - note that he was looking at someone else right then. I could barely think when he looked at me, let alone take a picture.
Then it was time for Mr. Sambora's spotlight. My favorite part of the show. I had been asking for Stranger In This Town or Undiscovered Soul in the days and weeks before the show, but didn't really expect it. So when Lay Your Hands On Me began, I didn't even think about the fact that it was standard. In fact, I JUST realized, writing this, that he didn't sing one of his own songs. LOL. Shows how much I was enjoying the show - I didn't even notice. ;)
Now here's a little memorable experience. An annoying one, but memorable just the same. Since everyone in the pit rushes the catwalk when Richie takes center stage, I chose to stay there in my row. Nozomi went back immediately, since she's "trained" for that kind of security-dodging, crowd-darting action, having done it about 20 times on this tour already. LOL. She snagged dead center, right between where Jon and David would eventually be. I stayed to watch Richie, and because I hate crowd pushing and didn't care to fight for a spot to be eye-level with the band members' feet.
I'm glad I stayed, because Richie was AMAZING. He looked and sounded fantastic, and when he growled that "I know it isn't Sunday, but I'm taking ya to church anyway," my heart literally skipped a beat and my breath caught in my chest. That man is truly what my friend Trish calls "sex on legs". (Sorry for the shameless lust, but any warm-blooded female in the pit last night would HAVE to agree...) He commanded the solo and electrified the stage with his very presence - the Richie I KNOW and LOVE. And since very few of us remained at the front of the pit, I'm sure he saw me. He didn't wave or anything, but I wanted him to know that I at least wanted to see HIM.
Unfortunately, his performance was interrupted by a guy who sidled into my row, right up next to me, and leaned over to talk in my ear so closely I could smell his bad breath. "When I say run, you run." Excuse me?! "We were here last night - when I say run, you run." I realized he meant that he'd give a signal to rush to the back of the pit when Richie was finished and Jon would appear on stage. He had his arm around my shoulder and was WAY too close for personal comfort, so I just shook my head and pointed at Richie. "I want to watch him."
The guy mistook my motions for not hearing him, so he leaned over and repeated it again. "I'll let you know like this..." and he swatted my butt. I almost took him down right there, but he was about three times my size in height and weight, so I decided against it. I settled for another firm shake of my head and "NO. I WANT TO WATCH RICHIE SAMBORA. GO AWAY." the guy STILL didn't get it, and after a few minutes he repeated it again, telling me to go with his wife. I was SO annoyed, I kept trying to ignore him but he kept leaning over to yell in my ear and I wanted to smack him.
Besides, my camera bag was down under the seat in front of me and Nozomi's and my merchandise was nearby - I couldn't leave it. I've done that before...bad results. (Anyone remember my Los Angeles fiasco during the LH tour, when someone stole my purse?)
Unfortunately, the guy wouldn't take no for an answer, and as soon as Richie left the stage he corralled me (and the other women) down the aisle and ushered us toward the catwalk...where the security guard promptly held out his arms like a freakin human shield and we all crashed into him and each other. I was REALLY irritated by this point, since I didn't want to leave in the first place, that guy PISSED me off, and the security guards were rude. I broke free of the jumble and returned to my seat, swearing that if anyone else touched me, they'd drop dead instantly.
Security bugs me at many of these shows, and this is only my second time in the pit but both times were similar experiences with the circle segment. Some guards let you run past, some block you half-heartedly but let the pretty girls go by, and some literally escort you back to your seat. WHY?! Why not be on the same page with each other and just let us go back there? What's the harm? There's a front row on the other side of the ramp, so those people are just as likely to do something as we are. And what are going to do anyway, tie the band members' shoelaces together so they trip? We can't even reach their knees! Just let us take advantage of our pit experience if we want to.
And Mr. Bad Breath, leave me ALONE if I don't want to!
Anyway, Jon then appeared on the catwalk for Make A Memory, and I spent my time trying to get a picture when he turned sideways -- otherwise, I only had a lovely shot of his back and guitar strap. After Memory, he started into Living In Sin! It was a beautiful rendition, but I actually focused more on Richie because a) I could see his face and b) he had the most passionate expressions.
When it was time for the band to join Jon on the circle for the rest of the segment, I quickly ran to the circle to see David as he ran by. Again, I *think* he saw and smiled at me because I was one of about three people who actually looked at him while he went by, and I think he saw my shirt (spelling out the band members' names into an acronym for JOVI.)
They performed Mama's Got A Squeezebox and Someday I'll Be Saturday Night - another personal favorite, and I put aside the camera, closed my eyes, and let the song soak in. It's my anthem nowadays.
I was glad when the band returned to the main stage, and stared as David BOOKED it back to the keyboards the second they finished Saturday Night. He literally RAN! I thought I could feel the wind. Then the people who had gone to the back of the pit returned to their seats, and Nozomi excitedly shared her little moment with Richie - he waved at her! And she got a picture.
I am flat-out tired of Who Says You Can't Go Home, so I *almost* considered resting for a bit and having some water. But I never made it to the point of consideration. Jon's mood was so infectious up there that I couldn't HELP but throw my hands in the air and belt out every damn "It's alright" at the top of my lungs. What can I say - when it comes to my convictions, Bon Jovi knows how to make me a hypocrite. LOL
After Who Says, I was wondering what would come next...Jon had promised a "dozen different songs" and I hadn't seen too many yet. So when a couple of chords started, my mind drew a blank and I literally stared around wildly, unable to place the song. I knew I hadn't heard it in awhile, so I registered that it was a different song...but I was confused the first few seconds. I saw Deb look at me from the corner of my eye, so I mouthed "What is this?" She looked surprised and mouthed "Captain Crash!"
I felt like an idiot - of COURSE it was Captain Crash! I was just so in disbelief that my brain didn't register the chords. AWESOME! I grabbed Nozomi and we jumped and screamed and started straight in on the arm waving. I was grinning from ear to ear, so excited that I got a little teary-eyed. I KNOW David saw me/us then, because he was laughing and nodding and I smiled back at him and sang the words "with" him. People around us in the pit were waving their arms, but when I did my customary glance to the stands, not many others were (except one guy waaay up in the rafters behind the stage, who was WAY into it. LOL). I frankly didn't care though, because I ADORE that song live and this is only the second time I've ever heard it.
I waved my arms back and forth the ENTIRE time; I didn't stop for a second. I felt my shoulder burning by the time Fred and Ginger and Joltin' Joe and Miss Monroe came around, but then Jon instructed the rest of the arena to "wave Crash in"..."I need you all to help me wave my friend Crash in. The people in the pit know how to do it, but I need your help!" So then EVERYBODY was waving Crash in...and the stands and floor were a sea of waving arms. IT WAS SO COOL. I just LOOOVE that song and the energy it inspires - so rest, be gone! (And my shoulders are sore this morning, lol.)
Next came Work For the Working Man - during which Jon spent a lot of time on our side of the stage and I kept shrugging my shoulders and "asking him" with my expression who WAS going to work for the working man. He didn't get it.
Have A Nice Day and Keep the Faith were great performances - TONS of energy and climactic power. I loved it!
The encore came too soon. I was actually very sad when the lights went out and they went backstage, even though I knew they'd come back on. The show had gone by WAY too quickly and I was not finished with third row yet! I spent the few minutes deleting blurry pictures from my camera to clear up space in case, hopefully, we got some killer encore surprise.
Which we did.
Something To Believe In. When the music started and the band sang the "hey, hey, hey, hey's" my jaw dropped and I stared at Nozomi, who didn't recognize it like I hadn't recognized Captain Crash. "Something To Believe In?!" I squealed at her. HOLY HELL! I think she got the entire thing on video, but as she is en-route to Tokyo right now, I can't ask her. LOL. Hopefully she will share the videos she did get, because that performance was one-of-a-kind. Jon strained and gave it everything he got to hit those high notes, and aside from some interesting facial expressions, he did pretty well. He was coughing a LOT afterward though, so I hope he didn't do vocal damage.
They started Wanted, which is always a unifying experience and I grabbed the coveted Jon and Richie duo shots with their guitars...then I fully expected Prayer to begin the the end of the show to commence.
But they weren't done with surprises - These Days was next! With Jon on vocals! THAT was one of the highlights of my night (just one) -- I adore that song and was moved by the passion Jon and Richie gave it. I've only heard it live with Richie on vocals, last year in Anaheim and Los Angeles. He did a beautiful job of it himself, but I loved hearing the original version last night! And Jon donned a Canucks jersey someone from the front threw up to him, which I thought was awesome - and what a memory for those girls.
Prayer came and went too quickly, and I was disappointed when Jon didn't do the expected foot stomp. When he grabbed his calf later on toward the end of the song, I got worried that he was going to fall again and have to be helped offstage, but he didn't pay it any attention after that. They were all smiles and bows and hugs like normal, egged on by the intensity of the crowd and the high of a show DAMN well done.
I screamed and cheered my head off, looking around at the arena and soaking in those final precious seconds before my favorite band disappeared beneath the stage. I don't know when I'll see them again, and that thought is scary and sad at the same time. They have given me an INCREDIBLE and unforgettable eight shows on this tour, more than I ever could have dreamed of. My journey brought me from California to New Jersey to Canada, a route I never thought I could take with my crazy schedule, but luck and blessings prevailed. It reunited me with old friends and introduced me to new ones - including a new "tomodachi" from Tokyo! It's given me experiences, adventures, and a lifetime of memories.
I hope they get the rest they need this month, and finish off May-July strong and in good health. And then they need to rest. Live their lives and be with family and touch base with themselves again. They've given us amazing gifts since last February, but it's time to go to sleep after a very long day. As long as they wake up again and storm the stage once more with the same fire and passion they've kept up until now, I'm okay with letting them relax.
Because they've still got a fight left in them. They're not done with the world yet. And when they return, I'll be here waiting, anxious and giddy and filled with adrenaline for the next tour, more than ready to return to the hallowed atmosphere of a Bon Jovi concert.
And that's what keeps me going.
Vancouver, BC, Canada - Rogers Arena, 3/26/11
Last Man Standing
You Give Love a Bad Name
Born to Be My Baby
We Weren't Born to Follow
Whole Lot of Leavin'
It's My Life
Raise Your Hands
We Got It Going On
Bad Medicine/Hot Legs
Lay Your Hands On Me (Richie Vox)
(You Want To) Make a Memory
Living in Sin/Chapel of Love
Mama's Got a Squeezebox
Someday I'll Be Saturday Night
Who Says You Can't Go Home
Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars
Work for the Working Man
Have a Nice Day
Keep the Faith
Something to Believe In
Wanted Dead or Alive
Living on a Prayer
See pictures here