If you’ve been to a Bon Jovi show in the past 30 years, you’ve seen them play in an arena for crowds of no less than 10,000.
On Saturday night (Dec. 3), it was the closest you could get to a serenade, with the now Richie Sambora-less group playing for a lucky 200 at a private SiriusXM show as part of Art Basel in Miami Beach. With a plus — extraordinary sound and acoustics at the intimate and gorgeous Faena Theater.
“Nobody’s used to seeing us in a place this small in 30 years,” Jon Bon Jovi said before the show. “It’s nice. It’s Miami, it’s Art Basel, it’s Saturday night.”
Pre-show, Bon Jovi said he still hadn’t had time to scope out his first Art Basel, even though he’s a serious art collector who leans more toward “traditional masters.”
Although he declined to say exactly what paintings are hanging on his walls, he did admit to collecting “quite a few” photographs, from Herb Ritts to Richard Avedon (Bon Jovi’s new album, This House Is Not For Sale, is inspired by a Jerry Uelsmann photograph, now the cover of the album).
On the subject of Hillary Clinton, Bon Jovi was less cagey. “I adore Mrs. Clinton, and like I’ve said all along, regardless of the outcome the country has to come together the next day and start anew,” he said.
There was, in fact, not a sign of politics during the nearly two-hour show, which kicked off with “This House Is Not for Sale,” the title track off the new Bon Jovi album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last month.
Although Bon Jovi has played the entire album during a couple of intimate shows, Saturday night’s — which aired live on the band’s SiriusXM channel, Bon Jovi Radio — spanned old and new fare, also including the just released “Born Again Tomorrow” along with “You Gave Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “It’s My Life.”
Dressed all in black, Bon Jovi, the band, looked trim and relaxed, the tiny stage elevating rather than constraining a performance that had some audience interaction but was really focused on delivering a lot of music in little time.
“A hot, sweaty, club show,” Bon Jovi said wryly beforehand. “Something we haven’t done in a while.”
It wasn’t that hot or sweaty (the Faena experience is more upscale), but the level of excitement was off the charts, and for diehard fans, who at the most were 40 feet from the action, priceless.
“This is the closest I’ve been to them,” said a man in his late 30s standing next to me. “Their music has changed my life. I do what I do because of them.”
Which takes us back to Jon Bon Jovi backstage pre-show. When asked what his favorite Christmas gift of all time has been, there was no hesitation: “My first guitar. It was a Univox electric guitar that cost my mom $100.”