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RICHIE SAMBORA, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
16 October 2012
released his first solo album in 14 years, Aftermath of the Lowdown, Bon
Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora embarked on an equally rare European tour,
with a solitary London date at the same venue he played in 1998.
Some of my
friends baulked at the high ticket prices but this was a rare chance to
see a man step out of the shadows of his parent band where his guitar
prowess has to be tempered by the commercial discipline of most of their
material, and in which some suggest he is the more naturally talented
2000 tickets were eagerly snapped up by a crowd where the gender ratio
was noticeably more even than at a Bon Jovi gig and by the end of the
evening there was no doubting what the correct decision was.
Backed by a
group of highly respected but hardly big name players with the session
musicians skill of playing tightly but staying in the background, Richie
made the most of being centre stage and after his much publicised
celebrity divorce and substance misuse struggles, it was a delight to
see him weathered but genuinely happy.
outset it was clear that he has learned the lessons of stage craft from
JBJ and to an extent Bruce Springsteen, getting people to clap along
during the opener 'Burn this Candle Down', with some unexpectedly heavy
Hendrix inspired distorted riffing, and join in a singalong along to
'Every Road Leads Back To You', a great song despite the rather
off-putting Coldplay or Keane-style piano.
the title track from 1991's solo debut 'Stranger In This Town', giving
him the space to show off his love of the blues, the first half of the
set was nearly all a varied selection of cuts from the new album.
up tempo rockers like 'Nowadays' and 'Sugar Daddy' with its Glitter
Band-type beat to the more soulful 'Taking A Chance On The Wind' and
'Weather The Storm'. But on 'Learning How To Fly With Broken Wings', the
band really rocked out with Richie launching an ever faster solo
drenched in feedback.
A snatch of
'Hungry Heart' was followed by 'I'll Be There For You', Richie joking
that he had no 'Richie' to give him a vocal break, as he regularly does
while singing this song at Bon Jovi gigs.
There was a
great atmosphere with hands swaying and the sound of people chanting
'who-oh-oh' could even be heard above Richie's long winding solo, and
long after the song finished.
Come Easy' was a rare dip into the Mellencamp-esque heartland rock
sounds of his 1998 'Undiscovered Soul' album, Hammond organ drifting
soulfully above the melodies, but a cover of 'Don't Look Back In Anger'
was a rare false move.
Great song it undoubtedly is, but looking around
and seeing few people singing along was a reminder that even 15 years on
from Britpop's heyday, classic rock crowds struggle to accept Oasis.
finally strapped on his iconic doubleneck, many of us were expecting
'Wanted Dead Or Alive' which is indelibly associated with it, but
instead it was 'You Can Only Get So High'.
In many ways
the most BJ sounding of his new songs, it grew on me mightily, hearing
him put his heart and soul into a very personal lyrical message.
then jammed out, perhaps at excessive length, to the gospel influenced
'Fallen From Graceland' and 'Who Says You Can't Go Home', another BJ
song perfectly suited to a singalong, with a snatch of Van Morrison's
wearing a hat and with his 12 string, he teased us one more time by
playing a snatch of Bad Company before launching into 'Wanted...', which
after all drew heavily on that song for influence, and the crowd was a
sea of waving hands, lighters and camera phones.
smartphone was soon put to use hastily finding out what he was covering,
which was a suite of Beatles songs from Abbey Road, showcasing the
band's tight playing.
By the time
they unexpectedly returned for one of Bon Jovi's underappreciated
classics in 'These Days', people were singing along and even the
balconies were standing up and swaying and there was quite simply an
outpouring of joy and love in the house.
the 11pm curfew that was it, but Richie returned alone and - to delight
people who had been requesting it together with other debut album
favourites - performed an acoustic version of 'The Answer', reminding me
in places of a superior version of Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' and
taking the set length to 2 hours and 25 minutes.
from a Bon Jovi lyric, he said the show had been 'as much fun as you can
have with your clothes on' and repeatedly thanked the crowd for a night
he would never forget. Common sentiments, but on this occasion, it was
possible to believe him.
I have no
idea what they put in the water on the Hudson River, but with
Springsteen, Bon Jovi, increasingly the Gaslight Anthem and now Richie,
New Jersey stars know how to put on a warm hearted and passionate live
have just been an interesting diversion and a hors d'oeuvre for Bon
Jovi's expected UK tour next year turned out to be one of the gigs of
photos by Andy Nathan
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