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Live review: Richie Sambora – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 20/2/14

Richie Sambora

IF YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING that you’ve read in the majority of music press, it would seem that the past week has been a turbulent one for Soundwave. Bands pulling out of the festival, a multitude of timetable changes and a flurry of what promoter AJ Maddah has referred to as “pissing contests” between bands have all contributed to an impression of a festival in trouble. If you look past the melodrama, however, you’ll realise that there remains a festival of almost a hundred bands of such impressive diversity and talent to make any such trivialities irrelevant, and with more rock credentials than any music fan could spend a day shaking several sticks at.

A pleasant bonus to having Soundwave roll through town is of course sideshows, and tonight’s gig from ex-Bon Jovi member Richie Sambora would be a more than pleasant addition to that roster.

With a set beginning at the early time of 8pm and with no support bands on a stiflingly humid Brisbane evening, it could be suggested that Sambora might have his work cut out to make the gig work, but this is one rock stalwart who has played more stadium gigs than some of the fans here tonight have had hot dinners, so it’s no surprise that the old master works the audience into a frenzy with a series of classic rock tracks and plenty of between-song banter. The only question remains is how much Bon Jovi material will he play, and will he mention his old song-writing (and latter day sparring) partner?

At around 8:30 the lights dim and AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ comes over the PA, announcing the arrival of the healthy looking Sambora and Australian guitarist Orianthi among a six-piece setup. Starting off with the first two tracks from his most recent album Aftermath Of The Lowdown, ‘Burn The Candle Down’ and ‘Every Road Leads Home To You’, he directs his audience to “wave your hands motherfuckers,” and said motherfuckers respond in the appropriate fashion. Explaining that his last album was a cathartic one for him to write and record, and receiving an amiable ribbing from a few people in the crowd for drinking water instead of alcohol, the 54 year-old says that “there’s too much shit around music now; people just want to hear people communicate music and jam out,” in reference to over-production and adding too many electronic elements.

Working through ‘Taking A Chance On The Wind’ followed by an excerpt from ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, Sambora leads the first huge sing-along of the evening for Bon Jovi number ‘I’ll Be There For You’, although there’s no mention of Jon as yet. Platinum-blonde guitarist Orianthi is a hard-rocking delight throughout; trading riffs and owning large sections of songs, while not stealing the limelight at any point. Its easy to see why she has been voted one of the top female guitarists in the world by several guitar magazines.

A cover of INXS’s ‘Don’t Change’ is wedged appropriately into the show at this point, before ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Weathering The Storm’ provide rocking riffs and a spot of cheese-rock balladry respectively.

“I wrote this song about my fucking ex-wife,” says Sambora, to ridiculous levels of cheering, before playing the opening chords of ‘Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing’ and finally the first reference to Jon Bon Jovi comes as he introduces ‘These Days’. “This is the title track of our 1995 album,” he says. “I know which songs are mine, and which were his.” Cue more cheering. “When he coughs up some dough I’ll probably go back.”

By now, everyone can feel that a big number is coming, and as Sambora dons a hat that looks like it was picked due its resemblance to that of Crocodile Dundee, the band kick into ‘Beds Are Burning’ by Midnight Oil, which after a couple of verses becomes ‘Living On A Prayer’. Like a time-bomb going off, the release of energy is inescapable, and for three or four minutes it feels like a stadium gig circa 1987, or every bad birthday party you’ve ever been to.

An obligatory encore including ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ is enough to finish off this audience, and if tonight’s gig reinforced anything, it’s that Soundwave is going to be special. Oh, and Richie Sambora doesn’t need the help of any old ‘friends’ to put on a kick-ass rock show.

RICHIE SAMBORA APPEARS AT SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL STARTING IN BRISBANE FEB 22.