Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Great Chicago Fire of 2011

Greetings friends! I have NOT forgotten about y'all ... just been busy. I promise to wrap up my UK/Ireland Bon Jovi trip (complete with LOTS of pictures) this week. But, in the meantime, if you want to head over here, you can read about one hot night in Chicago.

Be back soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 3: Mission Impossible...?

Now…where was I?

Oh, yes. The show and sight-seeing in Edinburgh was truly wonderful, but time to move on to the next destination … LONDON!

Besides the Bon Jovi concert in Hyde Park, I had only one goal for my time in this great city – to visit Wimbledon.

Growing up, there were two sporting events that were absolutely sacred in our house … The Masters (golf) and Wimbledon (tennis). As for tennis … living in New York City, I have attended the U.S. Open many many times. The excitement and energy of the hard courts in Flushing Meadows is incredible. Night matches there are simply electric. But, the grass courts of Wimbledon … that’s pure magic.

After an utterly sleepless first night in London (it was midsummer during my trip, therefore it was totally light out at 4am. huh! who knew?! And remember, I'm still sick as a dog), I headed to The All England Lawn Tennis Club via the tube (which sounds much more refined than “the subway” by the way.)

Though I had joked that I was up all night devising a plan to stalk Roger Federer, the truth was that I had no plan at all! All I knew was that I wanted to be there. And actually, on the train there were constant announcements that if you didn’t have a ticket to not travel to Wimbledon because the queue was extremely long (at least 6 hours to get in … if you get in at all.) But, being the insanely stubborn person I am, I didn't quite listen.

Upon arriving, this is what I found...

...wouldn't it be great if it was this organized for Jovishows? #JustSaying LOL

It was quite apparent there was no way I was going to get in ...

But I would be happy to just see the entrance ... or the souvenir shop ... anything! So, I walked up to one of the gates hoping for even a glimpse of the venue I have loved my whole life.

...there aren't any tickets available for MONTHS so not sure why they actually have a sign LOL...

...finally, the guard says "Miss, your ticket please. You can enter here." ... ayyyy, NOW WHAT?!

Well, they always say honesty is the best policy. So, I went that route. I told him I was from the States and didn't have a ticket. I told him that I have watched Wimbledon my whole life and to just be able to see it and breathe the same air was a dream come true even if I didn't get to see a match. He asks why I didn't get a ticket and I tell him that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to attend because I am traveling the UK going to Bon Jovi shows. His face lights up and he starts asking me all about the shows! (100 million fans can't be wrong!)

Next thing I know, he opens the gate and let's me in! (that's the top of his hat ... don't wanna jeopardize his job ya know!)

He tells me we have ten minutes and he can show me around a little but I can't stay for any matches (COMPLETELY fair as I don't have a ticket and people have been waiting days to get in.)

OMG OMG OMG! I can't breathe ... this is awesome. So, he walked with me and shared a few of his stories about meeting different players. And my dream is realized -- I'm actually standing on the grounds of Wimbledon. My dad would be proud. *sigh*

After my mini-tour, he takes me back to the gate where I shock the *&%$ out of him with a hug and thank him profusely. He tells me to sing extra loud at the Hyde Park show and off he sends me.

Wow. That was pretty cool.

I spent a little time in Wimbledon Village (which was complete chaos because Andy Murray was due to play that day) and then headed back into the city.

After walking around Covent Garden and grabbing a bite to eat...

...I headed over to Picadilly Circus, sort of the Times Square of London...

Not too surprisingly, I felt very comfortable in London. I'm a city girl. I just needed a lot more time there to explore. I'm looking forward to returning in October for the Jukes tour.

I eventually made it back to our hotel to meet up with the girls for dinner and a bit of shopping for Saturday's grand activity.

Next up: the BIG concert ... Bon Jovi/Hyde Park/Hard Rock Calling ... bring on the crowds!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 2: Castles, Whiskey and Cough Drops

...sorry for the delay in posting. Crazy, fun weekend. DJ3K!

Okay ... onto Day 2 of my Bon Jovi UK adventure.

The concert in Edinburgh had been fantastic. The crowd fabulous. The set list wonderful. The confetti ... EVERYWHERE! LOL But, unfortunately, it had rained ... a lot - cold, windy rain - and that wreaked havoc on my flight-weary body so that by the next morning, I was downright SICK ... yep, fever, cough, congestion, achiness. UGH!

But the show must go on!

Another lesson learned quickly while "on tour" ... there are two kinds of days: sitting ones (concert days - in the queue) and walking ones (non-concert days - sightseeing.) So, after a quick stop at the pharmacy to get me some heavy-duty meds, we got on the bus and headed off to check out the city and Edinburgh Castle, in particular.

..after walking the winding streets of the city (including meeting an extremely funny guy who was dressed up as Braveheart), we finally made our way up to the castle...

...the entrance...complete with quintessential moat! (no alligators, though, I checked. LOL)

They are in the midst of preparing for the world-famous Edinburgh Festival so lots of construction going on ...

I would love to be able to come back to experience the military tattoo ... must be an amazing sight!

(obviously not my picture. haha)

After all that walking and picture-taking, we just had to stop for a drink, yes? And what better place for a slightly-ailing American than The Scotch Whiskey Experience!? We opted out of the barrel ride through the production facility and headed straight for the cafe.

...ahh, it looks like an innocent cup of coffee, but ... woohee!

Of course...we had to also try some straight know, for medicinal purposes! *wink*

But, soon enough it was time to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the airport. I really wish I'd had more time in Scotland. The people there were incredibly kind and the city of Edinburgh had so much more I wanted to explore. I will be back!

Next stop: LONDON...and a dream come true!

p.s. Amusing side note: during the concert, Jon Bon Jovi mentioned that he wanted to move to Scotland...Jon did you happen to see this on your way to the venue? Look! Each of the guys could have their own wing! It was right across the street from our hotel. I thought it would make a really cool music conservatory. Can you imagine the heating bill for that thing?! But, still ... c'mon lottery numbers!! Haha.

...oh, and just so that you don't forget what's still coming up...

Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park...

A rainy night in Bristol...

...and of course...the two Dublin shows.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stop 1: Edinburgh (via Paris and Dublin)

So, where do I begin?

Well, if it's Tuesday, this must be Scotland! (points for whoever gets the cinema reference! *wink*)

I like to travel. Really, I do. And generally, I travel pretty well. But, admittedly, after three flights (NYC to Paris; Paris to Dublin; Dublin to Edinburgh) I was VERY happy to finally arrive at my destination.

I think it was the 7-hour layover in Dublin that was particularly annoying -- THOUGH I did end up hanging at a pub watching Wimbledon (go Roger!) while drinking my first pint of Guinness. By the way, it is ABSOLUTELY true that Guinness in Ireland tastes infinitely better than Guinness in the States. Seriously, it's like two completely different beers.

Nonetheless, I was relieved to finally land in very rainy Scotland (rain: that would become the ongoing theme of this trip) to the welcoming cheers from the crazy Gs. For those of you new to the blog, that would be my much-loved German girls with whom I've had many wild and wonderful adventures.

We stayed at the most adorable bed and breakfast place, not too far from the concert venue (good thinking, Rike!) Contrary to the picture, no ... the place wasn't tilting, that was me. LOL

After a traditional English breakfast the next morning, we headed over to Murrayfield to get our numbers and pick up our tickets. I learned quickly the importance of breakfast on show days ... because once you got in the queue, you more often than not didn't end up eating too much the rest of the day (as can be told by the Hyde Park show, when I basically had four cough drops all day. LOL) I also learned that from the hours and hours of waiting to get into the venue, fan club members overseas truly know and take care of eachother. Throughout this whole trip, I was happy to meet so many people I had known online either through the club, this blog or on Twitter.

We finally were allowed to enter and I staked out my spot in the first row. I was blessed to be surrounded by some super-fun fans which certainly helped pass the time as we waited for the local band (Val Verde ... who were great) and the support act (Vintage Trouble) to take the stage. At some point, it started raining (of course, this is Scotland!) and pretty much continued on and off throughout the rest of the evening.

I was anxious to experience Bon Jovi in the UK, having heard all the stories about overseas fans and set lists, etc. etc. etc. I was definitely not disappointed. The show was fantastic ... the energy, completely different than in the States. I do still feel that having all the diehard fans together in the front (of either the diamond circle or the golden circle) makes a big difference. But, whatever the case, I was smitten from the first moments.

Of course, I hadn't seen a concert since Jon Bon Jovi injured his knee in Helsinki so I was curious as to exactly how much he was able to move around. In true Jon fashion, nothing was slowing him down. And, the rain wasn't slowing the crowd down in the least. Oh, I FINALLY got to take part in the whole confetti/Capt Crash chaos -- I am pretty sure I'll be finding confetti in my stuff for months to come! LOL

I had a blast joking around with David during Who Says You Can't Go Home (this became a nightly occurence as I was wearing my NY Yankees cap at every show. LOL) And, what a treat to get Wild is the Wind (have always loved that song) and a fantastic version of These Days. But, the utimate moment of the night ... hearing (in its original form for the first time since I think 95/96 for me) this incredible song! (video by Deweyjovi - great meeting you in the pit that night! *smile*)

Because of the rain, I wasn't able to take quite as many pictures as I normally do, but here are a few of my favorites ...

(it's not perfect but I sort of like how Jon is clear and Richie and Bobby are blurred a bit)

...and here's the throw...

...another successful maracas catch! LOL ...

...Jon encouraging the crowd to make even more noise...

By the end of the concert, I had fallen in love with Bon Jovi all over again ... their energy, the songs, the brotherhood and, regardless of Jon being in obvious discomfort with his knee, the aura that just surrounds one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock.

And, that was just day ONE of the trip!

p.s. I already thought of at least 5 things I wanted to put into this post ... so come back tomorrow. LOL #SoManyMemories!

Monday, July 4, 2011

2011...Halfway There

Greetings fellow music fans! Happy Fourth of July to my American friends -- and happy Monday (ayyy...sorry) to my other buddies.

So ... I have returned from my crazy Jovi UK/Eurotour adventure. And what an adventure it was! I certainly will be sharing stories and pictures from the road over the next week or so. An unforgettable 10 days for sure.

But, given that we are halfway through 2011, it's time for my mid-year pick for performance of the first six months. There have been some truly great evenings since we rang in the new year -- from the Kronos Quartet at Carnegie Hall (awesome!) to Elvis Costello at the Beacon Theatre. There have been Jukes shows and Jovi shows, small chamber music concerts and big festival rock-n-roll shows.

In the end, though, there were TWO shows that stand out. The first made it in just under the wire on June 30th. Yes, I'm talking about Bon Jovi in Dublin night 2.

As many of you know, that was my 200th show (I'm trying not to think about the $$$. LOL) and more than anything I really wanted to hear Bounce. Jon Bon Jovi will never know the personal significance that song has for me (some of you do) but it marks more than just a concert milestone for me and will always hold a special place in my heart. Anyhoo, I do believe Mr. Rockstar may have been trying to screw with me a bit during the fan club event as when he said they were trying to decide between Happy Now and Bounce he just smirked at me. Stinker!

Well, given that we all know he lies (heck, even he admits it, right?) ... I was pleasantly surprised that they opened the show with "my" song. Wanting to just enjoy the moment, I didn't record or take pictures during it. Luckily, many other people did ... here's a great clip by Jovigirlfm (who always takes great video!)

But, it wasn't only hearing one of my all-time favorite songs that made this such an extraordinary concert. It was the incredible combination of the set list (Damned/If Loving You is Wrong, Love for Sale, Hey God, Never Say Goodbye all in the same show!!!), the venue, the crowd and the band at the top of its game. I can see now why JBJ loves Dublin so much. It's pretty easy to fall in love with the city, the people and the energy there. Between the perfect weather, a crowd hungry for as much as Bon Jovi was willing to put out (and that was a lot), the concert morphed into one of those epic nights that just kept getting more and more unbelievable.

Oh, and by the way, we got Happy Now as well *wink*

This show was the perfect way to close out my five remarkable concerts in the UK/Europe ... a ton of friends, a great band, a fabulous crowd ... and a song from Jon. Doesn't get much better than that!

BUT WAIT! I said earlier, there were TWO shows that defined the first half of the year. It would be criminal not to talk about the show that had a juggernaut hold on the "best of the year" performance up until the very last day of June.

Where Bon Jovi can take an entire crowd of 60,000 on a ride, the performance by the Early Elton Trio of "Madman Across the Water" in January was that kind of rare musical experience where the listener is transported to a place where it is just them and the artist. I equate it to a film sequence where the main characters are in crystal clear focus and the entire world around them is a blur. That's what this performance was like. It is one of those feelings that can't really translate to video ... but here is what I suggest: maximize your screen, turn down the lights, use earphones so you can hear everything -- and when you get to the solo in the middle, just close your eyes and listen. Jeff Kazee knocked it out of the park. Period.

So, there you go...the two stand-out concerts of the first half of 2011. Trust me, it wasn't easy -- Bon Jovi in Hyde Park was really outstanding. I'll write more about that later. And that crazy, rainy night in Bristol wasn't too shabby either. LOL

Until the next time...
Big Apple Jen