at United Center, Chicago, IL, USA, November 4, 2005

The United Center, located in Chicago, Illinois, USA, has seating capacity for a maximum 20,500 patrons, and is the home of Chicago’s Professional Basketball and Hockey teams. The arena claims to be the largest in the USA in physical size, not capacity, and hosts over 200 events per year. On this evening, the arena played host to Bon Jovi’s Have A Nice Day tour. This 2005 World Tour was passing through Chicago during its infancy stages, as this night heralded the second show, and stop, of this tour.

The United Center was set up in its 270° configuration, which hosted Bon Jovi’s massive stage set while allowing for a sold out crowd of approximately 17,000 fans. The census of the crowd was an adoring fan base, which was predominately older and mostly female-based (understandably so). Bon Jovi’s stage setup was massive and breathtaking. The backdrop of the stage played host to a gargantuan, four-story high HD video screen, which played very vivid and colorful live video images of the band as well as displaying backdrop stills all night long. On both sides of this screen were pillars of lights that were able to display video and images themselves, giving fans the impression they were viewing a massive animated version of Hasbro’s Lite-Brite in action. There were also two less dynamic video screens positioned (one) at each side of the stage, hoisted in the air for the pleasure of the fans in the much higher balcony seating. Two keyboard stations and a drum riser were positioned atop of brightly lit, neon-encased pedestals. There were ramps extending out of each side of the stage, as well as side stage “holding” areas for lucky fans who were contest winners and/or members of the media. There was no typical front stage “media pit,” as this area was reserved for video cams that were mounted and moving along a circular railing system parallel to the stage. To be sure, quite an impressive stage setup as a whole!

Sambora – Bon Jovi From AfarThe band opened at 8:30 pm in unprecedented fashion by leading off with a track from the current release, “Last Man Standing,” which was received with lukewarm feelings. One of the first noticeable things was an additional guitar player in Bobby Bandiera (of Southside Johnny and The Ashbury Dukes), and an extra keyboard player positioned clearly in view on the left side of the drum riser (David Bryan was, of course, positioned on the right side). Hugh McDonald, who has played Bass on the last three albums, was also in attendance.

The set did a good job of covering the spectrum of the band’s catalog, spanning nearly 22 years at this point. The only album not represented was, regrettably for Hard Rock fans, 7800° Fahrenheit. Even the box set was represented with the song “Radio Saved My Life.” The band certainly had a good hold on the crowd through the first part of the set, which included a mix of ten electric-based anthems and new tracks. Sambora Wailing – Bon Jovi From Side From that point, though, the band broke into a more sullen Acoustic Set, which always induces a risk of losing the crowd’s adrenaline. The acoustic set opened with a solo Jon Bon Jovi acoustic rendition of “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night,” which appeared to be well received by the crowd. Making the set even more special was the acoustic rendition of “I’ll Be There For You,” where both Bon Jovi and Sambora shared the same microphone and had seemed to capture the audience’s attention. This led into a moving acoustic version of “Lay Your Hands On Me,” which was performed amid a still desert image backdrop. The song concluded with a small acoustic instrumental interlude, which resulted, surprisingly, in the disappearance of Jon from the stage. Unbeknownst to the crowd, the first “curveball” of the night had been pitched. A spotlight exposed Jon, now moved to a mini-platform stationed in the mezzanine seating level, playing an acoustic guitar and breaking into “Blaze Of Glory.” This was quite a selfless act for a star of Jon’s caliber, knowing all the frenzied fans within the crowd make up. The rendition itself crescendoed into a heavier instrumental ending, as the band awaited Jon’s return to center stage. It was during this passage that the realization became apparent that drummer Tico “The Hit Man” Torres might be severely underrated as a Rock drummer. His playing all night was full of intensity and emotion like the camera was always on. It would be interesting to see Tico in a pure Hard Rock setting.

One of the main highlights of the evening was the high energy, “we have them by the throat” closer, “Livin’ On A Prayer.” During this song, the United Center could barely contain all of the energy given off by the band and the crowd of 17,000 fans singing the catchy chorus in unison; definitely a chilling moment.

Bon Jovi Band From AfarOnce the band said goodnight, the lights dimmed and after what seemed like an eternity (a long four-minute wait), the band appeared back on stage for the first encore, a clothes change, and the last curve ball … “Bells Of Freedom,” which might be the least likable track off of the new release. Why they decided to use this as an encore one can only guess, as they deflated the crowd and pretty much lost all of the momentum built up by the energetic closer. The night ended on an upward beat, though, with an energetic “Wanted Dead Or Alive” (with a rippin’ Sambora solo) and a second encore. The second encore was a Soul-based cover number, which resulted in two female fans, picked from the side stage section, each getting a chance to dance with Jon on stage.

Say what you will about Bon Jovi and their oftentimes lighter-than-Hard Rock style of music. One thing is certain, the band exudes a certain amount of professionalism and showmanship in a live setting no matter what the conditions may be. Watching this show from afar was like watching an HBO Special where all performers act like they know the camera is on them at all times. The star of the show is certainly Jon himself with his masterful crowd control, especially with the women. More so than ever, Richie Sambora is also helping in this regard, which, in the end, just makes this live band even more of a tough act to beat even after 22 years on the road. There’s no doubt that this band continues to rank high with some of the greatest live bands in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Set List (130 minutes):
Last Man Standing * You Give Love A Bad Name * Everyday * Born To Be My Baby * Story of My Life * Radio Saved My Life * Runaway * Have A Nice Day * Last Cigarette * It’s My Life * Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night (acoustic) * I’ll Be There For You (acoustic) * Lay Your Hands On Me (acoustic) * Blaze of Glory (acoustic) * I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead * Bad Medicine * Raise Your Hands * Who Says You Can’t Go Home? * Livin’ On A Prayer * Encore * Bells Of Freedom * Wanted Dead Or Alive * Encore 2 * Treat Her Right


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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