Why I’m still Keeping The Faith two decades later

The date is etched on my memory: Saturday, August 19, 1989.
I was 17, a first year student at Sixth Form College, Fenton, and a concert virgin.
I caught the coach from Hanley bus station at 9am having purchased my £18.50 tickets from what was Mike Lloyd Music.
It was the first time I had ever travelled any distance without my parents or some other grown-ups being in charge.
However, to my eternal shame, I still took a packed lunch.
The venue was the National Bowl in Milton Keynes which, in my experience, is the finest outdoor music venue in the UK.
I had simply never seen so many people: 65,000 souls bathing in the sun of that never-ending summer.
I was swallowed by a sea of leather, denim and ripped t-shirts and enveloped by the smell of hot dogs, burgers, warm beer and sweat.
Support acts came and went and then, in the fading glow of the setting sun, five blokes took to the stage.
The atmosphere was intoxicating. The noise was all-consuming.
An incessant beat of hand claps heralded the arrival of the mighty, multi-platinum selling, all-conquering Bon Jovi.
Truth be told I’ve never been quite the same since.
Now fast forward 20 years…
Admitting to being a Bon Jovi fan in 2011 is the musical equivalent of saying you enjoy knitting, watch Emmerdale or like to pass the time by building model railways in your attic.
Unless, of course, you come from Stoke-on-Trent where there seem to be more rock fans per head of population than anywhere else in the country.
Even so, if I had a quid for every time someone had poked fun at me for being a follower of Bon Jovi over the last two decades I’d be able to buy their entire back catalogue and still have change for a bandana or two.
Not that I care. I know that there are music fans and then there are music fanatics – people who follow a certain artist or band with religious fervour.
Bon Jovi are my musical passion. This isn’t just a casual fling. It’s not a fad or a phase. This is an obsession.
For example, my Bon Jovi vinyl collection is a source of immense pride to me. American, Japanese, Dutch and German limited edition imports? Check. Slippery When Wet and New Jersey picture discs? Check? Foil stickers still intact with the Wanted Dead or Alive seven inch single? Check.
I’ve followed this band all over the UK – from Gateshead to Manchester, from the Britannia Stadium to Birmingham and Wembley.
I’ve taken girlfriends, my mates, colleagues, my wife, my in-laws and even my mum to Jonny’s church of rock ’n roll.
On Friday I made the short trip to Old Trafford cricket ground and stood in torrential rain for two and a half hours to watch the lads strut their stuff in front of 46,000 zealots.
The following day I drove to London to watch them again – this time in front of 65,000 people at Hyde Park.
It was my 35th Bon Jovi concert. Surely the court injunction can’t be far away.
My guest this time was my 16-year-old nephew Jack. It was his first concert.
Needless to say he’ll be there the next time the New Joisey boys are back in town.
I was wearing the same denim jacket I had on back in 1989.
The only difference was how I ached on Sunday after two nights of screaming myself hoarse and jumping around like a loon.
Lead singer Jon Francis Bongiovi will be 50 next year and yours truly will be celebrating his 40th birthday 10 days later.
You see, I’ve grown up with Jon and his crew. I’ve aged with them. Theirs is the soundtrack to my life.
Bon Jovi have played more than 2,700 gigs in front of 34 million people and sold 130 million records.
Some may mock, but I’m Keeping The Faith. What’s more, round here I know I’m not alone.


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