Bon Jovi at Anfield Stadium (19 June ’19)

It was off to Anfield, not a rare occurrence for me, but this time for a gig – as Bon Jovi were in town, supported by Manic Street Preachers.

This was a show in the company of My Beloved Wife, with her primary interest being in the main event, and mine more the support act.

Tickets

The choice of venue also inspired us to go, having both previously attended Paul McCartney’s show there in June 2018, as well as countless football matches, of course.

This was to be my third time seeing the Manics, with the first occasion also being at a major event like this, when I went with old schoolmate Kris as they headlined the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on New Year’s Eve as 1999 turned into the new millennium, when they were supported by Shack and Feeder.

I’d then seen them in October 2010 at the University of Liverpool’s Mountford Hall, again with My Beloved Wife, amongst others.

I’d been slightly wary of the Manic Street Preachers hype as they first came onto the scene with the Suicide Alley single in June 1988, with the band claiming that they would release a debut album that would be “the greatest rock album ever”, sell sixteen million copies and then split up, while professing admiration for Guns N’ Roses, also a black mark in my book.

So, I didn’t dip my toe into their waters until 1996’s Everything Must Go, which I bought in September 1997, having become more aware of it due to its four Top 10 singles.

Prior to seeing them in Cardiff, I bought 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and the 1992 debut Generation Terrorists, after which they obviously didn’t break up!

I went back to some other earlier works after seeing them for the first time, getting the New Art Riot ep and 1994’s much-lauded The Holy Bible, the last album released before guitarist Richey Edwards’ disappearance, as well as picking up The Masses Against The Classes single on CD that was issued in January 2000.

I bought 2001’s Know Your Enemy as it was released – from Sainsbury’s in Richmond, an indication of how mainstream they were at the time.

Manic Street Preachers

After getting the Forever Delayed – The Greatest Hits compilation in 2002, I didn’t top up my Manics collection any further until just before going to see them play in Liverpool when I picked up their B-sides compilation and albums numbered eight through ten.

So, I now realise I don’t own Gold Against The Soul from 1993 (probably due to its rather mixed reviews), 2004’s Lifeblood, or their three most recent albums. To be honest, I’m pretty comfortable with that. Eight albums (one a double disc), plus two double-disc compilations and a single seems quite sufficient for a band I have a certain fondness for, but no overwhelming love.

We drove to Anfield, finding somewhere not entirely permitted to park and walking across Stanley Park to the stadium. We were in good enough time to get a pie each from Homebaked before heading in just before the scheduled start time for the Manics of 6.30pm.

In fact, they’d already just about hit the stage as we found our seats (in the Kop block 203, so towards the back of the left-hand side looking down on the pitch/stage, the other side to our usual specs in 208, and higher up) slightly before 6.30, with their set-list being identical to the two Dublin arena shows a few days before when they’d also been supporting Bon Jovi.

This meant they were in the midst of the excellent Motorcycle Emptiness, apparently one of six (count ‘em!) singles off Generation Terrorists, when we got to our seats.

They then leapt forward six years for You Stole The Sun From My Heart as their set jumped around much of their career.

The big screens were spending a lot of time showing lead singer James Dean Bradfield and one of the extra (touring) guitarists – not sure if this was Wayne Murray (also in a band called Boy Cried Wolf whom I’m unfamiliar with) or Gavin Fitzjohn.

Nicky Wire

Sadly, this meant there were only very rare sightings of the more interesting Nicky Wire, who was sporting a Lou Reed t-shirt.

Drummer Sean Moore was wearing a fairly lurid shirt, with the live line-up completed by Nick Nasmyth on keyboards.

Probably the highlight for me was the affecting The Everlasting, also from 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, although it was somewhat marred by a fairly poor guitar solo.

The nadir was certainly a cover of GnR’s Sweet Child O’ Mine, which inevitably was the most popular number amongst the crowd in general, but as I can’t stand the band, it wasn’t for me.

They closed with A Design For Life off Everything Must Go, possibly their best loved song, despite peaking at number two, one place short of two other singles of theirs (If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and The Masses Against The Classes). “Libraries gave us power” is a killer opening line to a song.

The intermission between bands was curiously and unusually enlivened by a Bon Jovi quiz on the big screen, which I didn’t prove to be very good at, to my lack of surprise.

I’m certainly no big fan of the band, with their only place in my collection being Cross Road – The Best Of, which apparently was the best-selling album in the UK for 1994, despite this being the year of both Blur’s Parklife and Definitely Maybe by Oasis.

I bought it as part of a 2 for £22 offer from HMV on Bond Street in late November 1997, together with the double The Best Christmas … Ever! various artists compilation. I also bought Aqua’s Barbie Girl and the Grease soundtrack within a few days of those, so not a month when I was worried about being cool, for sure.

My Beloved Wife also owns their sixth album These Days, while I got her the latest (and fourteenth!) LP This House Is Not For Sale for Christmas, ahead of this show. However, they only played one song off the new record, kicking off their set with its title track.

Bon Jovi, during the opening number

The band had come on to a rapturous reception for what was their first proper concert in the city since playing at the Royal Court a full 33 years earlier (although they had played at a Royal Variety Performance at the Empire Theatre in December 2007).

They got even bigger cheers (and some grumbling bitter boos) when mentioning that they were pleased to be playing at the “sacred ground” of Anfield, even stating that it was the “home of the European champions”. Is right, Jon lad. His diplomatic side showed through when saying that he knew everyone was supporting ”team Bon Jovi tonight”.

As this was a stadium gig, there was plenty of arms in the air and singing along, with the former inevitably much in evidence during Raise Your Hands.

Unsurprisingly, the two albums they raided most were their two biggest hits – playing four songs from 1986’s Slippery When Wet which sold an amazing 28 million copies, and five off New Jersey from two years later, which ‘only’ sold 18 million. However, they still managed to play something off twelve of their fourteen albums.

Long-standing lead guitarist (and co-songwriter with Jon on most of their hits) Richie Sambora has been absent since an apparently amicable parting of the ways in 2013, with Phil X now on those duties.

David Bryan has been on keyboards since the very beginning, and still has the haircut to prove it, with drummer Tico Torres, who’s now 65, also an original member.

Hugh McDonald has been on bass since 1994, while there are a couple of other touring players in percussionist Everett Bradley (who has also toured with Bruce Springsteen and Hall & Oates) and John Shanks on guitar. Shanks has written many songs for both Westlife and the reformed Take That.

Bon Jovi

The crowd-pleasing Keep The Faith (which was a #5 hit in the UK) sadly featured some rather excessive soloing – which was a bit of a trait of several songs on the night, together with the old staple of the fake song ending before a return to the big chorus for “one more time”.

Amen from 2013’s What About Now (by which time they were now down to 1.5 million album sales) showed off the ongoing power of the 57-year old Jon Bon Jovi’s voice, although he did struggle very occasionally on the night.

After a mid-set downbeat lull, they ramped things up again with the rather ludicrously cliché-ridden We Don’t Run from 2015’s Burning Bridges. Lyrics include:

“We don’t run, I’m standing my ground. We don’t run and we don’t back down. There’s fire in the sky, there’s thunder on the mountains.”

This was followed by a couple of big hitters in Wanted Dead Or Alive and Lay Your Hands On Me, which was a real crowd singalong. After two less inspiring numbers, the set proper closed with the rousing Bad Medicine.

It wasn’t long before they returned to the stage for two more songs – These Days and (of course) Livin’ On A Prayer.

We beat a retreat at that point, but perhaps a little hastily as we could hear the band coming back while we were making our way away from the stadium. Fortunately, in this modern age, I could pretend I’d not missed a thing by looking online later.

Jon wished Paul McCartney a happy (77th) birthday for a day earlier, before performing a pretty awful (feel free to disagree!) version of The BeatlesBirthday, as you can see here:

This was the first time they’d ever played this song according to Setlist, but they then followed this with a lacklustre Twist And Shout, a number they have seemingly performed live nearly two hundred times:

Overall, the show had been pretty much as expected from a headliner I quite like a few songs by, supported by a band I’m fond of without loving, although at an iconic venue that it was nice to experience for a gig for only the second time. My Beloved Wife definitely enjoyed it, which is of course the main thing!

Tonight’s t-shirt

A tough choice for this one, but I went with my red Y Niwl tee, in honour of their shared Welsh roots with the Manics, so a fairly tenuous link. There were lots of other band t-shirts in evidence, with Metallica second only to Bon Jovi.

Others I spotted included Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Velvet Revolver, Def Leppard, Bruce Springsteen, Uriah Heep, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden and, most curiously, Adam Ant.

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Playlist

Here is a most of the music from the show on Spotify:

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