Bon Jovi ensured the first day of the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park was a resounding and very rocking success.
The American band, led by consummate showman Jon Bon Jovi but minus guitarist Richie Sambora, put on a fantastic three-hour performance, taking hardly any breaks and showing tremendous stamina in the hot conditions.
Several songs from their latest album What About Now were well received by the tens of thousands of fans in the crowd, as were a selection of cover versions including John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over the World and Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman.
But everyone was really there to see and hear the classics performed, and the veteran rockers didn’t disappoint, blasting through anthem after anthem such as Bed Medicine, You Give Love a Bad Name, In These Arms and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night to name just a few.
Really, the show was a marathon singalong session because most people there knew all the words to every song and were only too happy to join in without any persuasion.
Personal highlights for me were Always, It’s My Life and We Got It Going On but the best was Livin’ on a Prayer. I’ve been a Bon Jovi fan for around 25 years but for one reason or another had never managed to catch them live until this. Being stood in Hyde Park belting out this ultimate rock anthem at the top of my voice while watching it performed goes down as one of my top live music moments.
Bon Jovi himself certainly isn’t short on confidence. After 30 years as frontman for one of the world’s biggest and most successful rock bands, you would expect modesty on stage to be in short supply, but he did show a very humble side when he spoke about how special it was to be playing Hyde Park and how honoured he was to be “opening for The Rolling Stones” who are the next headline act at the BST festival later tonight.
Prior to the hugely entertaining Bon Jovi gig, the Kaiser Chiefs played an hour-long set full of their high-energy hits such as Modern Way and I Predict a Riot.
Before the Chiefs got the crowd nicely warmed up for the main act, Bush kicked off proceedings on the main stage. This long-running British rock band, who have never really made it big in their homeland, performed admirably in sweltering heat to a sparser and more subdued crowd.
Of course, as it has done many times before down the years, Hyde Park makes a great setting for big outdoor shows. The main stage is particularly impressive as it has been decorated with huge fake oak trees in a nod to how the venue looked back when the Stones played their legendary concert there in 1969.
The BST festival is continuing until July 14. Aside from the Stones, other stars set to perform include The Beach Boys, Elton John, Lionel Richie and Jennifer Lopez.
This is the first running of the festival and if last night is anything to go by it should be a sizzling addition to the capital’s summer music scene.
Family entertainment will be held in the park on the days when there aren’t any of the big shows taking place.
On-site facilities were not amazing but were still at the upper end of the scale for this type of event.
There were plenty of choices for food and a lot of bars around the place. My wife and I paid £12 to have some pizza for dinner and £3 for a couple of bottles of water. Prices were not at the rip-off level I was expecting.
Merchandise stalls were charging the usual sort of rate for souvenirs – T-shirts being around £20-25 each.
Toilets were plentiful and easy to find. They were clean and fresh early on, although had become pretty grotty by the night’s end.
There were a few little issues such as the card payment machine at one of the souvenir stalls breaking down and a nearby ATM charging nearly £4 to withdraw a bit of cash. There were also very long queues for everything and cold drinks weren’t as easily available as I would have liked. Getting out the venue at the end was a slow process and I’m very pleased the temperature had cooled down by then.
But overall the event seemed to be very well organised. I particularly liked the large number of guides who were on hand to answer any questions. Their cheeriness wasn’t quite up there with that of the Olympics volunteers last year but they were still very friendly and helpful.
It was a fantastic opening night which bodes well for the rest of the festival. To anyone lucky enough to be going along on one of the other days, you should have a great time.