Review by Darren Seaton
ALTHOUGH it’s a little under 2 hours down the road, Dublin can, at times, feel like a completely different world to Belfast, and nothing showed that more than the venue and staff at The Olympia Theatre, one of the calmest, most easy going entrances to a concert I’ve ever experienced, as opposed to the “Behind the yellow line” and “right drink up get out” brigade of a lot of Northern venues, lessons to be learned there folks!
And so to the nights events, as with the German run of shows, two local singer songwriters were chosen by Richie to open the show, they were limited to two songs each possibly because the show seemed to be running since Richie was apparently due onstage at 8.30pm and it was now past that when the second act finished.
Earlier in the day as your reviewer left Belfast around 4pm, Richie was apparently just leaving London due to an airline mix up, so one could have been apprehensive that his enforced late arrival into the city may have on the set a downbeat mode for the night…..thankfully not the case!
Just after 9pm, to the strains of Leon Russell’s Song for You, Richie makes his entrance sans guitar and demonstrates why many say he has the best singing voice in that there band from New Jersey he is or currently isn’t in!
I had wondered what type of crowd we would have tonight, would it be Jovi fans who didn’t really know Richie had solo stuff out, or a nice mix of those but also Richie fans who would know pretty much all the man’s back catalogue!
It was definitely the latter. Opening single from Aftermath of the Lowdown, Every Road Leads Home To You, was extremely well received and quickly followed by Nowadays from the same album.
If you’ve seen any festival coverage at the weekend, you’ll know Richie joined Dolly Parton onstage in London and Glastonbury, for her version of the Jovi classic, Lay Your Hands On Me, thankfully tonight the original lyrics were reinstated, and Richie’s slower grooving version wowed the crowd, although I think their singing back of the chorus possibly also wowed Richie!
Any concerns on whether the crowd would respond well to the non Jovi stuff were immediately laid to rest when the opening bars of Stranger In This Town filled the hall, the crowd singing every word, as Richie and indeed Orianthi let loose on some killer bluesy solo’s.
In our recent interview with Richie he said that one thing lacking in Jovi was creative freedom, to just play what he felt, there was no lack of freedom tonight, elongated solos, guitar duelling with Orianthi, impromptu sing alongs, who needs wide open fields where you’re a mile from the stage when you can be this close you can almost smell it?
Continuing the solo run, Burn That Candle Down, Weathering The Storm (written with Bernie Taupin) Sugar Daddy, Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing all retain the same impressive band crowd repartee.
The emotional, and possibly the best track from Aftermath, Seven Years Gone, sees Richie open his heart a little about the situations that caused him to write it, and the crowd continue singing every word.
One thing noticeable from my vantage point in the Circle, is this isn’t the polished almost sterile production of the big Jovi arena shows, this is a band recently put together - albeit featuring long time Sambora/Bon Jovi contributor producer Luke Ebbin - who like jamming, who can extend and change songs when called for by Sambora, from the gesturing to Orianthi that says your turn play some guitar, even back to the keyboard player frantically flicking his cheat book on how one of Richie’s solo songs go…..its all part of a rock n roll show!
Orianthi for her part shines when asked and returns to “rhythm” guitar when not required, her chops are impressive, her vocals even more so, and when they play one of her tracks, You Don’t Know, with Richie pretty much taking a back seat, you can just see how talented this lady is and why she’s been playing with Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, Steve Vai, Michael Jackson, never mind her own solo career!
She and Sambora play a fine version of Storybook Love by Wille Deville/Mark Knopfler and to be honest it was almost as if they wrote it together, anyone can sing a cover version, but its when you take it and make it your own that's when things shine.
This gives way to Jovi classic and biggest sing along of the night, I’ll Be There For You, Sambora unleashes some of that wonderful emotional soloing in an extended outro of the song and the who oh ohs from the audience continue for another two tes even after the song has finished!
In act, on previous nights Richie has used songs like Stick To Your Guns as an intro to Wanted Dead or Alive, tonight he takes the guitar off, grabs some water and lets the crowd continue singing, before putting the six string back on and taking us through an amazing version of the Jovi national anthem!
And so the main set ended, hardly a Jovi song in the first hour, then a run of classis, where do you go from here?
You bring out more! Asking the contestants for the opening slot to come out and join him and the band for Living On a Prayer, sung amazingly by Orianthi; she owns that song vocally!
Rounding off the evening with an impromptu version of Get Up Stand Up, before continuing the reggae theme into the start of These Days.
The night finishes on a high as we hit curfew, clocking in around 2 hours and the crowd still woh oh oh-ing as the band leave the stage.
I’d waited 16 years since my last Sambora solo show, tonight was brilliant, not perfect, not flawless, but what rock n roll should be, flowing and entertaining. Now for round number two in Belfast!