Friday, May 21, 2010
The Sweetest Place on Earth
Well, it was this week, anyway....
The Boys are Back on the road and so am I! I couldn't resist road-tripping to Hershey, PA for the opening date of the Circle Tour stadium leg. Several weeks ago, realizing the Jovi Withdrawal was probably going to be severe at this point, Willow and I decided to grab a couple "cheap" tix and trek to Chocolate Town for what we originally thought would be a day trip.
Funny how plans change.
It all started with Willow getting to take the day off from work, then with Samantha texting to tell us she had decided to come to Hershey.... then it all kinda snowballed from there. But in a good way. Texts, e-mails, and phone calls flew fast and furious the few days preceding the show. Finally, after at least 9 versions of "The Plan" I drove to Jersey on Tuesday to meet Willow. The second she got off work we hopped in the JoviMobile and headed East, ultimately arriving at our hotel at the dinner hour.
Sam was waiting for us, dinner reservation in place. After a quick change to look presentable (this wasn't the kind of place that would welcome my driving-attire Aerosmith t-shirt and tennies), we three sophisticated ladies headed for the bottle of wine we just knew had our name on it. I felt quite worldly and adult being able to actually dine with two grown-ups for once (as opposed to my kid and husband), and I'm sure I had a smug little smirk on my face when we walked into the restaurant.
I'd like to think I kept my composure when the hostess led us over to our table about 15 feet from where Tico was sitting, dining with a friend. Holy Crap. Welcome to Hershey!
We sat, accepted our menus, ordered our wine, and remembered to turn off the Bon Jovi ringtones on our phones (could you IMAGINE?). I had a direct line of sight to the Hitman and I could hear his low, rumbly growl as he talked on his cell. I tried to read the menu and realized I would have to just ask for the "specialty of the house" because I couldn't read a blessed word on the page. Good Grief.
Luckily our server Gina (how's that for Karma?) brought the wine quickly and we all toasted and drank. Trying to resist the urge to stare and drool we came to some sort of decision about an appetizer. Before it arrived Tico and friend made their departure, strolling oh-so-casually out the door with only a little glance and smile in our direction.
*SIGH* Thank God. Now I could eat. I was freakin' starving.
Dinner was lovely and delicious, as was the company and the second bottle of wine. After our meal we took our glasses and retreated to the lounge across the hall, settling in for a little girl-talk. Soon another familiar figure strolled into the lounge and took a seat on the other side of the fireplace from where we girls were relaxing. "Mike Rew! No, wait! That's Paul K!" The giggly, slightly tipsy wide-eyed murmurs flew around our corner of the lounge. "Crap, how much wine have we had? WAITER!!!" Then a few minutes later in sauntered the Rock Star Himself.
No, not THAT one. Obie. God of all Jovi-Wit and Wisdom.
I couldn't stop grinning when I saw him.
Anyway, about that time two more lovely Jovi Gals arrived and we all proceeded to get acquainted, keeping one eye on the other side of the room. Somehow another bottle of wine arrived and soon Samantha leaned over and stage-whispered "Pssst! They're drinking wine! Should we send them a bottle?"
"Hell yeah!" I replied. In a cat-like leap Sam was on her feet and headed for the bar. I stayed curled up in my chair with my wine glass, watching her with what I'm sure was by now a stupid leer on my face. She gave her instructions and returned to our group, settling in to watch but pretend she wasn't watching like the rest of us.
Alas, several minutes later our lovely waiter came bearing the news that Obie and friends were departing and had declined our offer with thanks. Oh well. So much for that. We shrugged and resumed our conversation... until suddenly, there was Obie. Right there, behind Denise's chair. Holy Smokes, he's quick!
With a sweet smile and a wisecrack he thanked us for our gesture, apologizing that they were heading to bed to prepare for a long day tomorrow. It was very brief, but very kind of him to go to the trouble. Good guy, that Obie. : )
So, the objects of our distraction gone we proceeded to close out the bar then retreat to our room where we had more "imported" (i.e. schlepped from home) wine. And thus the hours flew by until finally around 4:00 am I drifted off to sleep, surrounded by half-drunk glasses of wine and Hershey chocolate wrappers.
10:00 am came damned early. At least I didn't have to work (poor Samantha).
So, fast-forward two and a half hours. T minus eight hours 'til showtime. I'm standing in the lobby, showered, blow-dried, casually dressed, and looking only remotely hung over. Beside me is a pile of luggage as I waited for Willow to pull the car around.
And around the corner comes Obie. Our eyes meet, he grins and says hello. I'm pretty sure the thought running through his head was "Hey, it's the redhead from the bar! Betcha she's hung over!" I replied with what I hope wasn't a grimace. He paused and we chatted for a moment during which he assured me in a sing-songy sarcastic voice that he was "Hershey Happy!" (lol) Then with a smile and a wave he headed out the door, undoubtedly off to manage whatever crisis was looming.
That was cool. I've always loved Obie.
After packing the car Willow and I lunched and shopped and made dinner plans with Sam and our new friends. We also met up with the fabulous Rutpop and her adorable husband at Chocolate World. After buying way too much candy we wandered out into the parking lot that happened to be right beside Hershey Stadium. The sweet sound of guitar riffs from a familiar Beatles tune filled the air. "Ahhhh.... Richie!" Willow and I sighed together.
Then IT happened. One simple sentence, sung in that unmistakable blues-sexy wail. YOU SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!
My knees buckled. I bumped against Willow. She laughed at me. I had literally swooned at Richie's vocal sneak-attack. Holy HELL.
But he didn't continue. Instead we heard Jon's voice counting down then soaring through the air. This one goes out to the man who mines for miracles...
Soundcheck had begun.
Of course we weren't going ANYWHERE out of earshot. So we delivered our purchases to the car and headed for the stadium, hoping to be able to peek through a fence or crawl through some bushes for a glimpse of the rehearsal. At the very least we were going to enjoy the free audio show.
We killed time listening to the expected set tunes while standing in line at the merch table. Toward the end of the check were rewarded with a full version of Birthday, this time with Jon on soft, croony vox with a slight hint of British accent. Apparently it actually was somebody's birthday, because he commented after the song "That's for you..." Thank you Birthday Boy, whoever you are!
A blissful hour later soundcheck was done, show tix were in hand from the Fan Club tent, and we headed out to dinner. We did a little Non-Raindance on the way as dark clouds had been swirling all day. But in all honesty after what I had just witnessed I didn't care if I had to stand in a downpour for 2 1/2 hours of Jovi Goodness. I was all set. The show was just icing on the cake. Ahhhh....
Showtime arrived with only a smattering of occasional raindrops. The crowd was enthusiastic and I heard lots of Oohs and Ahhs over the gargantuan stage setup. Man, they weren't kidding when they said this screen spanned a football field. It was ENORMOUS. And, as we would see when the show started, VERY cool.
After a half-hour in line for the Ladies Room (and I use that term loosely) Willow and I bolted for our seats just as we heard the tom-tom beat of This is Our House. We got settled just in time for the stadium to go dark and the big screen to light up with the familiar opening Circle graphics. Ahhhh, it felt good.
Then off they went... Richie's distinctive riff on Blood on Blood. After the opening bars up bounced Jon, strumming furiously on his black Takamine, pouting that sexy little ego-filled smirk.... and wearing that black zippered leather shirt he wore to the Grammys. The one I've obsessed about for months. Oh. My. God.
It's gonna be a good night.
As the Boys worked their way through the now-very-familiar setlist I was struck by the fact that they seemed very relaxed and happy. Lord knows they looked great, but it was apparent that they were having FUN. Not that they don't usually look happy on stage; quite the contrary. But tonight it really did feel like a reunion of sorts after a break, a "Hey Man, let's Jam" kinda vibe.
And apparently they were chilly, too. Jackets stayed on all night, and when Jon came out after his break in a black leather jacket and gorgeous black-and-white scarf every woman in the stadium (and probably some of the men too) let out one big collective gasp. For those of us dancing along in the crowd it was actually not that cold, but then again body heat from 15,000 of your "closest friends" can keep you pretty toasty.
Other than the AWESOME stage setup there weren't any surprises in the show. Those of us who had attended multiple arena dates were mildly startled when the usual order was juggled a bit. My biggest disappointment was that they didn't do the usual "jukebox song" in the middle of Bad Medicine. I was seriously jonzeing for a little Roadhouse Blues.
Though the band sounded fantastic and Jon was his usual consummate showman self, it was obvious this show was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming week at Giants. Jon didn't seem to be using his full voice, though he still sounded great. I wondered if he was feeling under the weather, but he had sounded fabulous at soundcheck earlier. And if he wasn't feeling well it sure didn't slow him down. He still danced and bounced around the stage like a guy half his actual age. I can imagine the damp, chilly night wasn't much fun to perform in, though.
As for the stage itself, it was of course quite a bit larger than the arena setup. The main stage was flanked by two enormous jumbotrons, and the entire arched back of the stage was a huge video screen. Jon had a lot more room to move around and he did venture out onto the wings of both sides of the stage as well as out onto the circle ramp. Because the setup was larger so was the Pit, and Jon did not venture down "among the people" as he had during the arena shows. I also missed him dancing on the robotic platforms for We Got It Goin' On. Oh well--it would take a LOT of robots to do that on this stage!
When it was time to bring Richie out on the ramp to join him for I'll Be There For You, Jon joked that he hoped Richie packed a lunch "'cause it's FAR!" When David and Tico came out, they had to hustle to make it to the front of the ramp to kick off the song. It was kinda funny to watch, the little "whoas" and "oh craps" you could catch as the guys worked an unfamiliar setup. There were a few minor technical glitches throughout the night, but nothing major. It was still the polished performance we've all come to expect.
As Jon started to shake his maracas for Keep the Faith the raindrops began to fall. Luckily the sprinkle stayed just that -- a few passing drops. Apparently Obie's anti-rain VooDoo was working, lol. The encore was short, just Wanted and Prayer, then they were done. I'm sure the Boys were on a plane back to Teterboro before we even made it out of the parking lot.
All in all it was a pretty awesome 24 hours. The show was fun and upbeat, I got so see some old friends and make some new, and I got to relax and bask in the joy of Jovidom for a brief moment in time before having to return to real life.
Yep, Obie... you had it right. "Hershey Happy!"