Bon Jovi delivered a ferocious selection of hits at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday. The performance marked the first time the band had performed in public with founding guitarist Richie Sambora since 2013 and bassist Alec John Such – also playing guitar in Cleveland – since a one-off appearance in 2001.
Jon Bon Jovi opened his band’s performance with an exhortation. “You know where you are?” he asked the crowd. “You’re at a Bon Jovi concert. Out of your seats.” The group then proceeded to power through several of their mammoth hits, including “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “It’s My Life.”
Bon Jovi also performed “When We Were Us,” a single that came out recently on a reissue of 2016’s This House Is Not For Sale. The new song offered the band an opportunity to present a unified front: Sambora, playing the track live for the first time, shared a microphone with Bon Jovi.
Bon Jovi brought their set to an emphatic close with a rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer” that featured Sambora on talk box. Audience members responded to the radio staple by singing along lustily. After finishing the performance, bandmates hugged and raised their arms in unison.
Bon Jovi – “It’s My Life”
Bon Jovi were welcomed into the Rock Hall earlier in the evening following a hilarious speech by Howard Stern, a little less than a decade after they were first eligible. Bon Jovi were nominated previously in 2011. The hall inducted founding members Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, Such and drummer Tico Torres, alongside Such’s replacement, Hugh McDonald, who stepped in in 1994.
Bon Jovi – “When We Were Us”
Sambora seemingly disappeared before the group’s 2013 tour. He told The Today Show Australia his reason for the sudden departure was to spend time with his daughter Ava, who had recently turned 16. “I just started spending time with my kid between [tour] legs, and my spirit wouldn’t pull myself out the door,” he said. “I just needed to be home.”
At the time, the absence was reported as a “personal matter,” and he said he hoped to re-join the group at a later date, though that never happened. Instead, the band replaced him with Phil X, who became a full member of the band in 2016. Sambora has since said he no longer has any intention to pursue a full reunion.
Bon Jovi – “You Give Love A Bad Name”
For the band, though, it was what the occasion required. Prior to the induction, Jon Bon Jovi said he was particularly moved to be included. “It truly does mean a lot,” Bon Jovi told Stephen Colbert. “We had been looked over a couple times, and it’s really an honor to consider you being in the same building as the greatest of the greats, whether it’s Elvis or the Beatles or the Stones. Just the idea that the music that you made has been known to generations of people makes you feel good.”
Additional reporting by Andy Greene