Friday night was my first visit to this semi-legendary Derby venue for the visit of Bon Jovi tribute Bon Giovi. First impressions were good, the venue was clean, tidy, friendly and with sensible bar prices. Crucially, on a warm summer’s night, it was air conditioned too. This year Bon Jovi have been touring the stadiums to widespread acclaim, that extra interest was evident from an almost full house of expectant fans, a large number of whom were women.
Bon Giovi comprise; founder member Wayne Harris on keyboards, Dean Harris on guitar, Tony Clark on bass , James Wright on drums and Andrea Oggiano on vocals. Any tribute band are defined by their frontman and Andrea makes a convincing Jon Bon Jovi, athletic, charismatic, good looking and with a decent resemblance to the man himself. But this is no look alike contest, being able to sing, and sound convincing is key, Andrea delivers that. In Bon Jovi the other key figure is that of Richie Sambora. Dean Harris assumes the guise of the washed-out gunslinger from Guildford (rather than New Jersey) and plays and looks the part.
The greatest hits set does not disappoint spread over a healthy 90 minute set. Oggianno works the crowd hard, has the Bon Jovi trademark jump off to perfection, and clearly enjoys himself, as do the rest of the band. Highlights? A euphoric “You Give Love a Bad Name” and a smouldering “Wanted (Dead or alive)”.
As rock matures and bands age ( and band members die) tribute bands can play an essential part in keeping the spirit of a brand of music alive. Although Bon Giovi delivered in spades to the aficionados, the scarcity of memorable songs ,and the surfeit of American formula-rock (“Always” “Bed of Roses” “Lay your Hands”), was evident. The longevity of tribute bands has less to do with the quality of the tribute and more to do with the quality of what is being given tribute to. Will Bon Jovi ‘s fame endure after they have wound up? I don’t think so, but meantime, while they continue, Bon Giovi are worthy fellow travellers.