A couple weeks ago, Angie and I attended the Bon Jovi concert at Wells Fargo Arena. However, it wasn't a normal concert for me. It was the first time that I enjoyed an event from a suite location. My employer decided to get a suite and offer the tickets to employees. It was a pretty generous offer, if they could sell all 40ish tickets to employees, the cost would only be $100 each...and the employer would pay for food and drinks. I figured that was a heck of a deal since the first and second tiers were in the $80 range of tickets (fees pushed it to just under a hundred), so a suite and free food is just bonus.
I was excited. I am not the hugest Bon Jovi fan in the world, but I have always enjoyed him/them. OK, not always...around the time of Slippery When Wet, I was very frustrated with BJ getting over-played especially at a time when I was getting into Iron Maiden and punk music. Bon Jovi seemed the antithesis of everything else I was getting into at the time. I still liked the songs - especially Wanted Dead of Alive, but I would not have admitted to being a Bon Jovi fan. I was too cool for that...and maybe (just maybe) had a little bit of superiority complex where I wouldn't admit to liking much of anything that was considered popular. This makes me angry at my younger self now, because I remember specifically passing on going to the Bon Jovi concert around this time because and therefore missed A) a probably great Bon Jovi show, and B) Skid Row opening - right before they exploded. It wasn't the only time my "Too Cool" attitude made me miss something that I probably would have enjoyed, and it makes me sad to see all the young goth type kids avoiding everything because they are too good for it...I'm sure they will have some regrets later.
It took me several years to actually become a fan and listen to Bon Jovi again. Actually, I can tell you exactly when I changed my mind and came out as a Bon Jovi fan. It was the night of the 1989 MTV Music Awards when Jon and Richie played an acoustic version of Wanted Dead or Alive. The grinding noise of punk had grown boring to me and I remember thinking...that is bad ass and wished more people would play awesome acoustic versions. I was obviously not the only person to think this as supposedly this performance inspired the MTV Unplugged series. It is still one of my favorite performances.
All these years later, I never thought I would see Bon Jovi live...not because I didn't like him, but $80+ tickets are hard for me to justify. I'd even looked at floor tickets for this concert before they wen't on sale, but with fees they were like $170 each...nope, couldn't do it. But $100 for a suite, with free food and drink? I could justify that just to be able to experience a suite one time.
Suites come with lots of perks...for example, there is a VIP entrance on the North side of the arena. Angie and I chose not to use it was just as easy to head up through the skywalk. We were also early enough that we didn't have to fight any crowds or stand in line, so I can't say that we really missed out on anything. However, I can see it would be a nice feature if you arriving about 30 minutes later and there were huge lines of people waiting to get in at the regular entrances.
The suites have their own elevated walkway. It is on the same level as the restaurant, above the 200 level seats. The suite walkway is open and has very little foot traffic, so it feels really spacious and airy. You also get to look down on the walkway/concession area of the main concourse and laugh at the crowded and miserably conditions of the poor masses. From this vantage point, we were also able to really check out the Bottoms Up Beer dispenser that the arena made a big deal about a few months ago. Since we were above, we could compare the Bottoms Up stand and the regular beer stand next to it. From what I could tell A) yes, the beer fills much faster, B) there is little foam on the beer, and C) the people taking the money still sucked and so the line wasn't much faster than the normal beer line. The walkway also offered its own full service bar and its own restrooms. I used the restrooms twice throughout the night and there wasn't a single other person in the bathroom...and they were very clean. The walkway also had nice portraits of many of the major events that had taken place at the arena in the past 5 years. It was actually pretty neat walking past this gallery and seeing all the big name events that have taken place there since there was a question on whether the arena would actually be used much when it was being built. I was a cool way to remember "Hey, I was there." Most of the photos in the gallery were really good, but every once in a while there would be one that I would think "Really? That is the best shot you could get?" It was also weird which shows they picked to showcase - Kidz Bop but no Nine Inch Nails? The walkway also has a pretty spectacular view of the Des Moines river and the capitol building.
The suites were nice - and by walking past each on looked a little different. Different themes and colors. But all were similar with comfy cloth and leather chairs and tables to gather around when not watching the event, to barstools along a drink rail and upgraded stadium seating (leather style chairs with extra padding) with small tables to hold your drinks. The suite also contained a mini-fridge, microwave, TVs and DVD player. Unfortunately, our suite did not contain a shuffleboard table like one of the other suites that I noticed.
I don't know what food packages were available, but I saw most suites had very similar food, but a few had very different and much fancier food (i.e. full steak & prime rib meals). Our food selection consisted of snacks and finger food...and lots of it. We started with potato chips and several kinds of dip, fresh vegetables and ranch dressing, an assortment of breads, spreads, crackers and cheeses. The more substantial appetizers consisted of chicken strips, hot wings, barbecue meatballs, egg rolls, and make your own nachos that included options of ground beef, barbecue beef, grilled chicken, several kinds of cheese and cheese sauce, sour cream, guacamole, olives, diced onions and tomatoes, jalapeños, and much more. It was a lot of food, and even though there was a good amount of people in the suite, there was plenty of food to go around (and leftovers). Beverages included several kinds of soda, bottled water, and several kinds of beer and wine. It wasn't all super fancy, but I am not sure that I would have wanted anything fancier for a rock concert. It was all pretty good.
I was a little bit upset when I first realized exactly where our suite was located...as it was the furthest possible from the stage. The location grew on me after a couple songs. We were perfectly aligned with the stage and there was no one blocking our view. Plus no sweaty people rubbing against me, no one spilling beer on me (although that was still a possibility I suppose). It would have been nice to be closer, but with all the screens that large arena acts have now, it really wasn't necessary. It was actually kind of nice to sit back and just watch the show. All in all it was a good show. It had been several years since I have gone to large arena concert. It was nice to take in all the lighting, staging, and more background part of the show that I don't get to see as much when I am closer and fighting with the crowd. The screens were amazing alternating between live feeds of the band and preprogrammed videos and graphics...which of itself is nothing new, but the screen kept moving, splitting, turning, recombining, making new patterns, and even becoming a floating staircase for Jon at one point. Musically, I thought they sounded decent. Richie was missing, I think caused the whole thing to not be quite as high energy and as loose as it might have been. Overall good, however, several people who have seen Bon Jovi before have told me that it wasn't as good as his previous shows...not horrible, just not as good. I was surprised at how many newer songs, I had heard and actually knew pretty well (and by newer, I mean anything after 1992 and the Keep The Faith album). Work for the Working man was completely new to me, however, and I thought it was decent...but the staging and graphics that went along with it worked really well and made it powerful. There is a video this song live in concert here....but it doesn't pull back enough to get the feeling of the song.
I wished they would have played Wanted Dead or Alive all acoustic, but I was sure there was slim to no chance of that with Richie in rehab. I also would have liked to see Blaze of Glory even though I know that was a solo Jon song. Those are minor things though. I'd recommend seeing Bon Jovi, and recommend a suite any time you can get it at a decent price.