Bon Jovi’s Unexpected Party

Bon Jovi had to postpone its Feb. 9 tour launch because of a blizzard, but that didn’t stop the band from launching its tour, which it didn’t launch that night. But did.

The band’s 2013 tour was to kick off at the 10,000-capacity Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., but the treacherous winter conditions of New England required the band to do a last-minute reschedule to Oct. 25, effectively making the tour launch the next evening at Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center.

And yet, the band played on.

Although a blizzard and governor’s edict kept fans off the roads, Bon Jovi was ready to go. The rigging was up, the lighting and sound were tested, and the band was stuck in the snow, just like the production crew and casino guests.

“So Jon came up with the idea that, since so many people were already in the hotel and on site and couldn’t leave, he would do a free concert for them,” the venue’s Thomas Cantone told Pollstar. “The rest is history.”

With the help of the casino’s P.A. system, some social media and word-of-mouth (news of a free Bon Jovi concert gets around a building very quickly), about 2,000 employees and patrons entered Mohegan Sun Arena around 4:15 p.m., and the lights dimmed an hour later. The band played its full two-hour set, plus encores.

Photo: David Bergman /
Playing a free show for folks snowed in at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

“Even Jon said onstage there might have been 10,000 people there because it was as loud and exciting as a full house,” Cantone said. “It was the most intimate big-time concert we’ve ever had. Everyone gathered around the stage and on the sides. Some stood in the pits. Jon thanked everybody for getting there in a blizzard and he said the tour starts now, no matter what, and we’ll be back Oct. 25.”

Many tours – from One Direction to Jennifer Lopez – have launched at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Cantone noted it is the largest casino arena in North America, and the casino is the third-largest in the U.S. The production crew is well-trained for tour launches, and they did their part for this show, having been snowed in for 48 hours already.

“I had a crew who stayed here throughout the night,” he said. “They slept on cots, stayed on floors, wherever, so we could pull off a show of some kind. And the technical crewmembers are the real heroes along with Bon Jovi. Without them we couldn’t have pulled it off anyway. We didn’t have a full crew so a lot of guys pulled extra duty on little sleep.”

The ban on travel was lifted about the same time the show ended, and load-out proceeded in double-time. The show, however, was unique enough to receive attention from national news outlets like CNN, and entertainment shows like “Access Hollywood.”

“This was the most unusual, historic weekend I’ve ever been in,” Cantone said.