British Summer Time kicked off in style last night as New Jersey’s premier ambassadors of rock delighted an expectant crowd in London’s Hyde Park. After seven weeks entertaining crowds around the Continent, Bon Jovi’s ‘Because We Can’ tour returned to a spot they consider something of a spiritual home. As the sun began to set on a blisteringly hot Hyde Park, a lively cover of John Fogerty’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ burst through the slowly dimming sky to get the party rocking. The feel good tone for the rest of the night was set.
Time has done nothing to dilute Jon Bon Jovi’s indomitable stage presence. Whether stood at the microphone, guitar in hand, or dancing around the stage like a man high on his own drug, his is a performance of strength and experience, honed and perfected over 30 years as frontman.
The opportunity for unadulterated crowd-pleasing presented by the booming minor chords of ‘It’s my Life’ was not wasted. Following this with ‘Because we Can’, the first record from their latest album, demonstrated that Jon et al. are still capable of producing clap-along classics and performing them with charming effortlessness. A slick and sexy rendition of ‘Bad Medicine’ bookended a rocking tribute to Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ and a version of The Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues.’ Both were triumphant highlights. It seems Bon Jovi would have made quite the covers band, had their own tracks failed them.
But fail them they did not. As night set in, they brought the big guns out. ‘Have a Nice Day’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ were belted out with raw power before ‘Always’ offered a rare moment of genuine and gorgeous sensitivity. Very occasional ventures into the heavier echelons of rock, in tracks like ‘We Got It Going On’, tended to fall a little flat on the crowd, despite the fabulous playing of touring guitarist Philip Xenidis. But this did little to detract from a seemingly endless repertoire of hits. Even during these rare lapses, Bon Jovi’s ability to rouse a crowd remained untainted.
The cripplingly crude graphics on the screens behind the band threatened to detract from the experience, but they were just about masked sufficiently. Regardless, the persons responsible should be advised to pick up their P45s soonest. Despite the gimmicky light show, the magnificent ‘Dry County’, punctuated by instrumental solos, was a timely reminder that Bon Jovi are far from just a hits machine, they can rock with the very best.
A total and unashamed insistence on feel good rock, which regularly spills over into the realms of cheese, is oddly refreshing. In a time when innovation is emphasised in music above almost all else, the Sayreville rockers remain the ultimate musical reminder that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Hard Rock Calling’s move east had threatened to leave a major space in Hyde Park’s summer musical calendar. But based on this showing, and with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Sir Elton John to come, British Summer Time seems to be filling the void admirably.
Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park continues until 14th July.