I’m not, by any leap of the imagination, a fancy woman. I shop at the dollar store. I drink boxed wine. I eat Taco Bell. I live in cut-off Bermuda shorts and ratty baseball tees I’ve owned since George W. Bush’s first term. Hell, I even know all the words to David Allan Coe’s “You Never Call Me By My Name,” and sing along at top volume whenever I get the chance. (Which is not nearly enough, if you ask me, and far too often if you ask fellow patrons of my favorite dive bar.)
Am I white trash? Maybe. But even an unsophisticated Philistine like me can appreciate the occasional night of opulence and luxury. That’s why I kicked off my flip-flops, wriggled into a fancy-lady dress, and headed to the world-class Hyde Lounge at the Staples Center to see Bon Jovi last Friday.
This was no ordinary night, you see. Bon Jovi was my first concert, ten years and a lifetime ago at the now-defunct Germain Amphitheater in Columbus, Ohio. The details are permanently etched in my mind: cheering on the flea-sized Jon from my grassy seat waaaaay back on the lawn as he shook his booty for the ladies, Richie’s blazing-orange leather pants, the band’s Spanish guitar-laden rendition of “Bed of Roses,” their endless encore.
Most of all, I remember experiencing for the first time a feeling I would come to welcome as familiar over the years: that unique elation that comes from sharing the same air with one of your favorite bands while they play — right in front of you! — your favorite songs. That euphoria is the dragon I’ve kept chasing all these years, and Bon Jovi did it to me first.
What better way to celebrate how far I’ve come than by seeing Bon Jovi again, only without having to worry about sitting on an anthill this time?
If you’re looking for a luxurious experience befitting a momentous occasion such as the ten-year anniversary of seeing Bon Jovi (or anyone) for the first time, you need look no further than Hyde Lounge at the Staples Center. The view was fantastic. The food and drink service was impeccable. The posh, elegant interior makes it easy to forget that you’re in a huge sports arena at all. Do you know — I mean, really know — the difference that a soft leather ergonomically-designed theater seat can make in the quality of your concert viewing experience? It’s like going to space: only the people who have been there can truly know what it’s like. I’m Buzz Aldrin in this scenario, and I’m telling you that it’s incredible.
Bon Jovi? Oh, they were great, of course. Three solid hours of nonstop hits. The big elephant in the room was a certain missing lead guitarist. Of course I felt his absence. But hey, the band ain’t called “Sambora.” Phil X, who filled in for Richie, did a perfectly adequate and skillful job on lead guitar.
I feel as though Jon Bon Jovi has, like Bruce Springsteen before him, reached the point in his career where he’s pure Americana. I’m not going to pretend to have voraciously consumed the material he’s put out in the last decade and a half, but it’s been in my periphery, and it’s very “all-American heartland” — Mellencampesque, if you will. The newer tracks are feel-good jams that serve as palate-cleansers between the monster hits — “You Give Love A Bad Name,” “Runaway,” “Born to Be My Baby,” “Bad Medicine,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” — and I think they reach a set of fans who weren’t necessarily into his ’80s and ’90s stuff. (How that’s possible, I don’t know, but people don’t surprise me anymore.)
In the warm VIP cocoon of Hyde Lounge, where other well-appointed fans and I sipped our cocktails and nibbled our gourmet snacks, I was fully able to appreciate just how far I’d come. There was Jon Bon Jovi — a little older, just the slightest bit worse for wear, but still sexy enough to distract me with the thought of how high our children’s cheekbones would be — and there was I, minus the sea of sweaty hooligans who’d normally be surrounding me. It was as if we were taking our own personal walk down Memory Lane.
As if he could read my mind, or perhaps as if the thoughtful Hyde Lounge staff who’d attended to my every need had whispered in his ear, Jon (and the rest of the band, I get it) performed “Always” during his thirty-plus minute encore. “Always” was the only song I’d been dying to hear that they’d neglected to play in 2003, and I think of it every time I’ve seen a band since who leaves one of my very favorites off the setlist. Better late than never, Jon.
For more information: