CONCERT REVIEW: A Hard Rocking Cinco De Mayo With Jon Bon Jovi!

by (@JordanRuntagh)

Cinco De Mayo is a time to party down, which for most of us means a plate of nachos washed down with a Corona in a coworker’s backyard. But the folks at Hard Rock were kind enough to send us South of the Border to celebrate the Mexican holiday with a real life rock legend: Jon Bon F–king Jovi!

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Just feet from the crashing waves, Jon Bon Jovi fronted The Kings of Suburbia, transforming the breathtaking Mexican coastline into an evening of good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. We were close enough to bask in the true majesty of JBJ’s flawless mane and can confidently tell you that it does in fact look better in person. After all, he isn’t the King of Hair Metal for nothing. His tour with Bon Jovi last year made him one of the highest earning musicians of 2013 -and watching him play at close range, you can see that he earned every penny.

It all went down at the newly-opened Hard Rock Rivera Maya in Puerto Aventuras, located on azure blue waters of the Caribbean sea. The all-inclusive mega resort is purpose-built for maximum pleasure consumption, boasting not only a private beach, but waterside bars and buffets, spas, a whopping nine world-class restaurants, and too many pools to count. The appropriately-named Club Heaven features LED screens and indoor pools, for ravers who want to cool down with a dip after dancing up a storm. Hell, even our room had a jacuzzi by our bed, and a hammock strung across the sea-facing balcony. If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo like a rock star, you really can’t do any better.

As it was the hotel’s opening weekend, a host of celebs were on hand for the ceremonial “Guitar Smash.” What that, you ask? It’s like a ribbon cutting, but a little more rock ‘n’ roll. Lord Scott Disick was in attendance, looking suave in a plain white button down and jeans as he strolled solo across the red carpet. Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio stopped hearts and defined perfection, and The Hills starlet Audrina Patridge was every bit the brunette bombshell. Connor Cruise was on duty as the after-party DJ, but for now he joined the other famous faces by grabbing a (factory warped) acoustic guitar and slamming it to the floor, Pete Townshend-style. It was a christening we will never forget!

Now that the official business was out of the way, it was time to head out to the ocean front Woodstock Terrace and watch Jon Bon Jovi take his rightful spot as the evening’s headliner.  Last year we were lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen in London, and now we’re getting initiated into another great Garden State tradition….in yet another exotic locale!

The covers-heavy set opens with one of the most perfect rock intros ever recorded. As the lights dim, the thundering drums and searing guitar of The Beatles‘ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” echoes out across the surf, and a processional march from a live horn section momentarily transforms the tropical beach resort into Psychedelic Swinging London. The band is truly massive in sound and in size, boasting not only brass, but a host of fiddles, keyboard players, two drummers, and background singers. Perhaps they’re taking a cue from that OTHER rock dude from New Jersey and his E-Street Band.

JBJ himself is nowhere to be seen, but his lead guitarist Bobby Bandiera did a formidable job biting into the songs carnival barker lyrics. As the final notes drift out with the tide, the act we’ve known for all these years shimmies his way across the stage in a simple black t-shirt and jeans, strumming a matching black acoustic guitar. An awww-shucks grin is spread across 51-year-old Jon Bon Jovi’s incredibly youthful face as he takes in the crowd’s love. Hair status: perfect. The phrase “boyish good looks” is overused, but what else can you say? The guy hasn’t aged a day since first selling out seats in the ’80s.

“We are the Kings of Suburbia, and we’re about to have alota bit ‘a fun,” he welcomes with a comforting down-home drawl. With that, he launches into the sixties soul deep-cut “Ain’t Nothin’ But A Houseparty,” the perfect soundtrack for the scene. The salty sea air mixes with the smell of charcoal and burgers, and for a brief moment it really does feel like we’re at a family barbecue, grooving to a cool relative’s awesome record collection. Jon Bon Jovi and The Kings Of Suburbia are the ultimate party jukebox.

“Whole Lot Of Leaving” is up next, Bon Jovi’s first original song of the night. But it almost seems like he has more fun doing other people’s oldies. He gives his best Roy Orbison impression for “Pretty Woman,” featuring some supremely stellar harmony vocals from Bobby Bandiera. He then serves up a distinctly white version “Everyday People,” calling on his band to fill out the Family Stone sound.

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