November 13, 2012
How does one transform a small intimate venue like the Fonda Theatre into an arena like rock show? Few people can accomplish such a task. Richie Sambora easily managed to pull off this feat while touring in support of his new solo album Aftermath of the Lowdown.
Primarily known for his fiery fretwork and slick songwriting in Bon Jovi, Sambora seamlessly made the transition to engaging frontman as his years of playing arenas has given him invaluable experience. A line of female fans hugged the front barricade in anticipation of watching Sambora much closer compared to the vastly high and distant arena stage.
It didn't take long for Sambora to heat up as he cranked up his boutique Friedman amplifier and battered Fender Stratocaster for "Burn That Candle Down". Flanked with a highly capable backing band, Sambora sounded superb as a vocalist. It became apparent how vital his background vocals hold together some of Bon Jovi's greatest hits.
"Every Road Leads to Home" was another anthemic rocker that was well deserving of its lead single status from the album. I shouldn't have been surprised but Sambora's guitar tone was outstanding. It could be indexed as the quintessential sound of rock and roll guitar with its perfect blend of overdrive, distortion and sustain.
A perfect example of his hot-rodded guitar sound was during "Nowadays" with its blazing hot riffs that could have been a Foo Fighters song. Throughout the evening fans were shouting out song requests to which Sambora quipped that he could be hired for weddings but was "VERY expensive."
Hailing from New Jersey, it was fitting that Sambora donated all the proceeds of the show to the America Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Fund. Although Sambora had mentioned that "Weathering The Storm" was more about personal problems it was eerily prescient in relation to the damage that Sandy had wrought.
One interesting turn of the evening was the interjection of The Black Keys song "Howlin' For You" into the song "Sugar Daddy." A boost in the energy of the room occurred when he played the Bon Jovi song "I'll Be There For You". A moment of guitar envy swept across me when I saw a stunning double neck acoustic guitar for the jangle of "You Can Only Get So High".
Cell phones were quickly set to record during the opening chords of "Wanted Dead Or Alive" as the crowd ended singing half the song to Sambora. A slowed down version of "Livin' On A Prayer" followed by "These Days" capped out the evening which made me think that Sambora would have been successful even if he hadn't joined Bon Jovi.
Critical Bias: I'm a sucker for good guitar sound and Sambora had it in spades.
The Crowd: '80s arena rock fanatics. Didn't see any big hair though.
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Overheard: "I want some "Bad Medicine!" Wasn't sure if they were referring to the song or scoring some drugs.
Random Notebook Dump: Sambora's album was released on indie stalwart Silverlake label Dangerbird records.
"Burn That Candle Down"
"Every Road Leads Home To You"
"Stranger In This Town"
"Taking A Chance On The Wind"
"Weathering The Storm"
"I'll Be There For You"
"Hard Times Come Easy"
"Seven Years Gons"
"You Can Only Get So High"
"Who Says You Can't Go Home"
"Wanted Dead Or Alive"
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End"
"Livin' On A Prayer"