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30 Years Later, Bon Jovi Returns To Moscow To Play To A New Generation

Jun 1, 2019
Originally published on June 1, 2019 3:27 pm
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DON GONYEA, HOST:

Bon Jovi launched their new world tour in Moscow last night. For many who were there, it was a chance to celebrate Bon Jovi's last concert in Moscow 30 years ago, when the monsters of glam rock took on the Soviet Union by storm. NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Jon Bon Jovi and his band took to the stage in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium Friday night. There was a distinct feeling of deja vu.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JON BON JOVI: I can't tell you how happy we are to be here again with you.

KIM: Thirty years ago, as the Soviet Union was opening up to the rest of the world, Bon Jovi played the same Moscow stadium, then still named for communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. Together with acts like Motley Crue, Ozzy Osborne, Cinderella and Skid Row, they took part in the two-day Moscow Music Peace Festival.

(SOUNDBITE OF BON JOVI SONG, "BLOOD ON BLOOD")

KIM: Because the Iron Curtain was still up, few Russians were familiar with the songs or even understood English, so Bon Jovi decide to steal the show. In a 2009 interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, Bon Jovi remembers trading a pair of jeans and some T-shirts for a Soviet soldier's uniform, which he then put on over his own clothes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BON JOVI: And I more or less did a strip tease the whole way to the stage - one glove, one hat, one coat, one shirt. By the time I hopped on that stage, the entire stadium was going absolutely nuts.

KIM: Russians hadn't seen anything like this before - not to mention the big hair, the leather and the spandex.

VASILY STRELNIKOV: All of a sudden, all the major acts were coming into Moscow and playing on this one stage. And it was a fantastic sign. Just the mere thought of it - Bon Jovi, Lenin - you know, that freaks you out.

KIM: Vasily Strelnikov, a Moscow radio broadcaster, helped organize the 1989 festival. He says that concert captured the mood of the country.

STRELNIKOV: This was the end of the '80s, and people really wanted change. And seeing Bon Jovi onstage kind of was an indicator of some kind of change coming.

KIM: A little more than two years later, the Soviet Union fell apart. Friday night's concert was a demonstration of how much Russia has changed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BON JOVI: All those oldies but goodies - come on, baby.

KIM: There were no wide-eyed teenagers or soldiers bartering their uniforms. Going to a rock concert is no big deal for Moscow's middle class. Yevgeniya Bogoutdinova wasn't even alive when Bon Jovi played Moscow in 1989.

YEVGENIYA BOGOUTDINOVA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: She says, for her, Bon Jovi means rock 'n' roll, drive and an ocean of positive emotions. Yelena Medvedeva, a housewife, says she'd been waiting 30 years for this moment.

YELENA MEDVEDEVA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: She says her parents didn't let her go to the last Bon Jovi show, and now her dream has finally come true. Alexander Malyshev is a welder who was lucky enough to get into that historic first concert. He's more philosophical.

ALEXANDER MALYSHEV: (Speaking Russian).

MALYSHEV: He says nothing has really changed - neither Bon Jovi, nor Russia, nor the rest of the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF BON JOVI SONG, "WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE")

KIM: Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.