While Bon Jovi fans were dealing with the news that guitarist Richie Sambora had entered rehab this week, the band kicked off the next leg of their tour Saturday in New Orleans without him, proving the old showbiz saying, "the show must go on".
Bon Jovi played the New Orleans Jazz Fest with substitute guitarist Phil "Phil X" Xenidis, probably best known to rock fans as the guitarist who replaced Rik Emmett in Triumph and has been a prolific session player with Alice Cooper Daughtry, Rob Zombie and Avril Lavigne among others.
The Times-Picayune reports that, for nearly two hours, Jon Bon Jovi and Phil X, Sambora's more than capable stand-in, worked extremely hard to deliver a show that, on balance, was more electric and more satisfying than Bon Jovi's 2009 Jazz Fest set.
With rhythm guitarist Bobby Bandiera laying the path, Xenidis was free to walk in Sambora's shoes. He wasn't shy about it, soloing in the opening "Blood On Blood" and busting out the talk-box for "It's My Life". Phil dressed up "Runaway", a thrill ride from Bon Jovi's debut album that the band did not perform at Jazz Fest in 2009, with extra licks and fills.
There was only one reference to Sambora's absence through the 2-hour set. "We'll send this out to our brother Richie", Bon Jovi said as the band geared up for its final encore, "Livin' On A Prayer", one of Sambora's trademark talk-box tracks.
No word on when, or if, Sambora will return to action, but Bon Jovi continue dates across North America until late May before heading to Europe to play a series of shows through July.
Bon Jovi "Livin' On A Prayer" (live at New Orleans Jazz Fest New Orleans, LA April 30, 2011):