Bon Jovi returns to Seoul after 20 years

Bon Jovi returns to Seoul after 20 years
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A thundering crowd of 14,000 fans greeted the classic American rock band Bon Jovi as they took to the stage in Seoul for the first time in 20 years Tuesday night.

After opening the concert with "That's What the Water Made Me" from their 2013 album "What About Now," Bon Jovi got the crowd roaring with "You Give Love a Bad Name" from their 1986 album "Slippery When Wet," the record that rocketed them to stardom. That song was followed up by "Born to Be My Baby," and front man Jon Bon Jovi took a break to welcome his audience, sweat already soaking his shirt.

"Good evening, Seoul, South Korea!" he said. "How are you tonight? It's good to be back. It's been a long, long, long time. We've got a lot of catchin' up to do. Let's get it on, baby."

The mob of fans filling the Jamsil Stadium was a mixed bag of young and old, Korean and foreign faces -- a rare blend at most concerts in Korea. The New Jersey band seemed eager to thank the fans for turning out, with Bon Jovi and his two touring guitarists prancing about the stage and urging the fans to join them waving their hands in the air to songs like "Raise Your Hands."

"Now my brothers and sisters," a breathless Bon Jovi said after performing "Runaway" and "We Got It Goin' On," "I've come a long way to be here tonight. I've come back to Seoul for one reason only. I wanna hear you scream! I'm just getting warmed up. How you doin'? OK?"

The band then launched into "We Don't Run" and "It's My Life," one of its biggest hits. During "It's My Life," fans in the standing crowd held up banners bearing the song title to show their support, and a surprised Bon Jovi turned one of the cameramen to the crowd to project them onto the big screens on either side of the stage. After the song, he fell to his knees, hands over his heart.

"This is awesome," he said. "That was great, man. Thank you."

It was all about the music from that point forward, with the band powering through six more songs with no break in between. The set included the quiet "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night," where Bon Jovi accompanied himself on the acoustic guitar, and the band's hits "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Keep the Faith," for which the crowd held up cellphone lights and banners emblazoned with the words "Keep the Faith."

During "Keep the Faith," Bon Jovi hopped down into the crowd to take one of the fans' banners and hold it up behind his guitarists during their duet.

The 16-song set was over after "Bad Medicine," from the 1988 album "New Jersey," for which the band repeated the outro several times to sing with the crowd, but Bon Jovi was far from done.

After a quick break, the group was back onstage for a seven-song encore, which included hits like "Have a Nice Day" and "Living on a Prayer." The long-awaited "Bugs Super Sound Live: Bon Jovi Live in Seoul" ended with the song "Always," a track from Bon Jovi's 1994 album "Cross Road."

It was clear the band had felt the test of time, Bon Jovi's voice noticeably weathered since their glory days. But as the band members slammed away on their instruments and Bon Jovi danced onstage, there was no doubt that the rock spirit of the band and their fans had remained untainted.

After 20 years, Seoul had not forgotten Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Tico Torres, and the lead singer seemed to feel the connection as he heard the band's name chanted in the Korean accent.

"It almost sounds like a Korean word, doesn't it?" he said, replicating the accent as he said the band's name himself. "Maybe I have some Korean roots after all."

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