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Bon Jovi: Seven Suggestions To Rock A Stadium

Bon Jovi: Seven Suggestions To Rock A Stadium

By Anthony Kuzminski

Seven nights to rock
I got seven nights to roll
-"Seven Nights To Rock"

Rumors are flying that Bon Jovi will embark on a stadium tour later this summer consisting mostly of ball parks. First and foremost I need to say that I hate stadiums. There is nothing positive in this day and age about seeing an act in a baseball or football stadium. Ticket prices more times than not are just as expensive as an arena show, yet the size of the venue has increased three-fold. Due to the size of stadiums, any sense of intimacy is lost as the show evolves into one colossal oversized event that all too often relies on spectacle. I have seen miraculous shows in stadiums by the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen over the last few years; however, it was mostly due to the daring nature of the set lists in each of those artists’ cases. In the hopes that Bon Jovi does not lose sight of bringing the music to the people I’m outlining seven “suggestions” the band should follow in the hopes that they give their fans a good bang for their buck.

Number 1: Keep Ticket Prices Fair
Billy Joel recently sold out 12 nights at Madison Square Garden. If you do the math, that is approximately 240,000 seats sold. On top of that, Joel also sold out the Carrier Dome in upstate New York, which holds 50,000 people. You want to know why Billy Joel could sell out 50,000 seats. I’ll give you the number one reason and it has nothing to do with longevity or hits; PRICE. Every ticket cost $39.50. The last seat in the nose bleeds cost $39.50. A front row ticket in front of Billy’s piano? $39.50. Billy’s quote to Billboard was that he wanted to ensure that not only the owner of the factory but the guy who works in the factory would both be able to attend his shows. Treat the fan base fairly and not only will they come back, but they’ll be back for multiple servings on the next go round.

Number 2: Change the Set List Every Night
Taking a song from the main set and putting it in the encore does not qualify as changing the set list. Bon Jovi has nine studio albums and there is no reason to not change up at least five to six different songs nightly. Besides variety, don’t forget great album tracks which seem to have been forgotten. If the band can play “Bells of Freedom” and “I Got The Girl” on a regular basis providing a buzz kill in the audience, there is certainly room for material off of “These Days”. Over the last few years many set lists have been static, which in turn have made me not want to see more than one or two shows a tour. Songs such as “Next 100 Years”, “Dry County”, “Wild Is The Wind”, “Breakout”, “I Believe” and “Homebound Train” have been largely ignored, especially on US soil. On his 2003 stadium tour, Bruce Springsteen would change up five to ten songs nightly and when the Rolling Stones played stadiums last year, they executed their sets with the same rules and regulations as their indoor shows, with a change of five to seven different songs nightly. You should always keep the fan guessing what will come next and even give the average fan something to take notice of. Not only will it encourage die-hard fans to potentially see more than one show, it will keep the casual fan coming back on future tours. At some point the casual fan will not want to spend $100 to see songs they have seen numerous times before in concert. Besides, Bon Jovi has so many hits that have been ignored on this tour (“Lay Your Hands On Me”, “Living In Sin”, “Keep The Faith”, “Misunderstood”, “This Ain’t A Love Song”) that the band could easily institute an A-B set list over the tour making every night new, fresh and exciting.

Number 3: Throw In Some New and Fresh Covers
Every Bon Jovi tour has seen its fair share of great cover versions performed in concert over the years (“Don’t Walk Away Renee”, “Travelin’ Band”, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, “Help”, “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Treat Her Right”, “Eve of Destruction”). Whatever cover they pull out reenergizes the band and is arguably the highlight of the show. Add a few fresh new cover to the summer stadium shows that will bring the house down (as long as it’s not “Shout”-been there, done that). Plus, if they continue to perform “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, it’s time to make it bigger than life again with a mix of covers in the middle. “Brown Sugar” and “Glory Days” (two covers mostly performed overseas in 95/96) should be added to the mix to engage the ballpark attendees and to keep their attention. The Boss sadly left “Glory Days” in his back pocket for the majority of stadium gigs he performed back in ’03, hopefully Bon Jovi won’t make the same mistake here.

Number 4: Utilize the Entire Band
Jon Bon Jovi had a rough winter. He threw out his back before one show and touring during the roughest three months of the year (November-January) has taken a toll on him. Heck, I’ve had a slew of colds and I am not on an airplane daily, let alone performing numerous two-plus hour concerts weekly. However, why not utilize Dave and Richie more often in the vocal department on these rough nights? If Jon’s having a bad night, he should have Dave open the encore with his piano version of “In These Arms” followed by a solo Sambora song. On top of that, Richie should have a solo spotlight nightly. Joe Perry and Keith Richards have them, Richie should as well. Fans got a teaser of Richie performing “Purple Rain” on 1990’s road documentary “Access All Areas”. Since that day, most fans (myself included) have been salivating at the thought of seeing the soul shredder have his moment in the spotlight where both his vocals and guitar would shine under the stars of the night. Has there ever been a more appropriate time to play this song than right now?

The band currently has two extra musicians on the road with them, from Southside Johnny’s band; Bobby Bandiera and Jeff Kazee. Both are devastatingly talented musicians whose musical knowledge goes deeper than any jukebox. Bobby and Jeff are beginning to add their talents to certain Bon Jovi songs, but why not utilize them more?

Number 5: Don’t Sell the Fans Short
Stadium gigs can be bigger than life and when a ticket costs you upwards of $100 and you are a mile from the concert stage, you may walk away from the show with anger rather than elation. The bands needs to make sure the stadium “show” reaches those in the nose bleed seats. If one does not connect with these people, they won’t pay their money the next time the band comes through town because they’ll still feel the sting of watching a video screen a mile away. Engage these fans and the die-hards with suggestion #7 below. I’ve seen Bon Jovi in stadiums before and unfortunately, I felt the shows were lacking, mostly due to the originality of the set list. The band should give their all every night and not leave the stage until the fans have passed out from exhaustion. They need to take the same chances on US soil that they take when playing Japan and Europe. If they did, they would be surprised at the reaction and realize that people know more than just the hits.

Number 6: Release “Unbreakable”
What most people don’t realize is the best song tracked during the “Have A Nice Day” sessions was regulated to “bonus track” status for international versions of the disc. “Unbreakable” is not going to change the world but it has a grinding and intense backbeat along with a guitar riff to die for. On top of that, this rocker was written for stadiums. Since the band made the mistake of leaving it off the record, they should push for it to be included on the upcoming soundtrack for “Superman Lives”. What does a song about the dissolution of a relationship have to do with Superman? Nothing, but why not put a song on the soundtrack with an all too perfect title of “Unbreakable” by a rocker who has had the Superman logo tattooed on his upper arm? I call it brilliant cross promotion. Plus if the song finds an audience or takes off, the band can give me a percentage as a “consulting fee”.

Number 7: Celebrate the Past, the Present and the Future
August of 2006 is the twentieth anniversary of “Slippery When Wet”. Filling stadiums is a task for ANY artist in today’s day and age. Concert tickets are no longer $20 and are extremely expensive affairs. So why not cross promote the past and present. Tease fans with a teaser on your web page before the tour is announced with the ‘HAND” smirk on one side of the screen right next to the “Slippery When Wet” road sign logo next to it? Why not make t-shirts up with both logos on them? When the tour is announced, why not sell it as a show with two parts? Part one would encompass new material along with the band’s greatest hits and album tracks from 1988 onward. Then part two will encompass of the entire “Slippery” album performed in its entirety which will provide fans a reason to see the show as it’s unlikely something like this would ever happen again. Average fans will come and see the show that may have otherwise skipped it and die-hards will rush for tickets on the hopes of being able to see songs like “Let It Rock”, “Social Disease”, “Without Love” and even “Never Say Goodbye” performed live. Heck while they are at it, why not pull out “Edge of a Broken Heart”? Ok, I know I’m pushing my limits here so I’ll stop.

Hopefully the band will see these seven simple rules which will help them not only fill baseball stadiums with ease, but more importantly, when the band makes their return on their next tour, the fans will be hungry to “come and see, hear, feel...the real thing”.