Sunday, November 01, 2009

Abu Dhabi Interview

Jon Bon Jovi tells Michael Odell why his band’s new documentary begins with a concert in the UAE: it’s all about the ‘hunger’ in the crowds. Local fans won’t be disappointed by the band’s latest album, The Circle.

How important is Abu Dhabi to Jon Bon Jovi’s remaining plans for world domination? Answer: Very important. In fact, the way Jon Bon Jovi sits forward in his high-backed gilt hotel chair, he might be a general talking about establishing a bridgehead in a soft-rock war.

“That’s why we got it in the film, right up at the front. The visit to Abu Dhabi marks the future for us. That’s where rock music needs to go. The hunger out there is amazing.”

The film in question is the new Bon Jovi documentary When We Were Beautiful, which was made during the band’s Lost Highway tour of 2008 to mark their quarter century together. Put together by the director Phil Griffin to coincide with the release of their new album, The Circle, it does indeed waste no time in showing us Bon Jovi living it up in the UAE. Here is Jon swanking through the lobby of the Emirates Palace hotel. There he is with the band serving up blue-collar anthems to a sea of pumping fists.

“Our old manager Doc McGhee used to have this saying, ‘We’ll play anywhere where they have electricity. And even if they haven’t, we’ll bring our own.’ But it was more than that going out to the UAE. We still have the appetite for a new challenge. Who just wants to play stadiums across America where you know you’re going to get 60,000 lighters in the air and a singalong? That’s great. But taking your show somewhere completely new and seeing the hunger and love is just incredible. I’m still just a kid at heart and I love that feeling of ‘Wow! I’m in the Middle East playing songs I wrote back in New Jersey!’ And, you know, those fans came from Jordan. They came from Lebanon. That makes me very proud and moved.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing. Some of the tougher parts of the UAE experience were left on the cutting room floor. Which means we don’t get to see Jon Bon Jovi, the multimillionaire rocker, philanthropist, actor and entrepreneur thrashing about in a single bed the night before the show wondering where the rest of his band is.

“When I say we like exploring new countries and cultures, then I mean it, but I’m totally a selfish rock star and I like to do things right. We were booked into this palace of a hotel in Abu Dhabi. The other guys went a day early and I flew in after. We’d been promised a royal suite – unimaginable luxury, gold-leaf toilet paper, the works. I arrived very late from Paris that night and they show me to this room with an Ikea bed and a lamp. Next morning I meet the guys for breakfast and start moaning: ‘It’s not so great here is it?’ But they’ve had a ball – servants, peeled grapes, masseuse… It turns out I’d bedded down in the service wing. I’d slept in the servant’s room!”

Hence the Abu Dhabi show was done on a just a few hours’ sleep, drawing on Jon Bon Jovi’s deepest reserves of professionalism. But then again, this is not just any old rock star. In fact, at one point in the film he looks up from his portable office and says so: “I’m not just a rock star. I’m the CEO of a major corporation.”

Then he launches into a snitty diatribe about how all the other band members get to go off and do nice things while he mans the phones and executes band “business”.

Today is no different. I meet him in one corner of a vast suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, London. He is boyishly trim and flashes his rock idol’s smile at staff whenever possible. His hair, the subject of so much speculation, looks thick and primped, but the days of the mullet are long gone.

It soon becomes apparent that this isn’t any old rock singer come to drawl a few lines about his influences. This is a chief executive unveiling a new product, keen for me to experience all its features up close. He has just flown in from New York and wastes no time telling me that he has personally brought the new album in his overnight bag, having only just finished mastering five of the tracks the night before. The hotel, of course, has its own stereo. But this is not sufficient. His staff have installed their own sound system in the suite. Before our interview, he asks that I listen to the new music at a volume that threatens to take out the hotel glazing in a single shock wave.

You can read the rest of the article here.
~ Hath


Anonymous,  November 1, 2009 at 11:17 AM  

Awesome article! Thanks for finding it and posting about it!


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