Frontman mentions guitarist’s absence just once as session man Phil X stands in… and some reviews say Richie wasn’t missed

Phil X

Stand-in: Guitarist Phil X / Photo: Phil Hatten (Snook)

Bon Jovi last night played their first show without Richie Sambora – and frontman Jon Bon Jovi only mentioned the troubled guitarist briefly during their encore.

The band announced on Friday that their North American and European tour would go ahead without Sambora, who’s checked into rehab to deal with alcohol issues.

Bon Jovi hit the stage at the New Orleans Jazz Festival on Saturday evening with former Triumph guitarist and session man Phil X on lead guitar, with no mention made of Sambora’s absence until near the end of their performance.

As they launched into a rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi told the crowd: “I’m sending this out to our brother Richie.”

He made a remark which could have alluded to the resent drama when, during a pause in the show, he asked the audience: “And what’s been happening in your life?”

The singer had more to say about his own longevity, taking a swing at the new generation of pop stars including Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. He said: “I remember when there was a Justin Timberle – and I was there before there was a Madonna. Things change but there’s only one constant. You’re looking at it.”

Some press reviews were of the opinion Sambora simply wasn’t missed. Keith Spera of the Times-Picayune said: “Phil was a more than capable stand-in. He worked hard to delivery a show that was more electric and more satisfying than Bon Jovi’s 2009 Jazz Fest set.”

Melinda Newman of Spinner commented: “The band started their tour without missing a beat. Phil X was extremely proficient and they kept the tempo upbeat throughout, knocking out one arena-rock anthem after the next with a polished precision.”

And fan Shelly Walker told USA Today: “I don’t care. The band is called Bon Jovi – not Richie and the Other Guys.”

It’s thought Phil X, 45, will take part in the rest of the band’s summer touring schedule. Along with his stint in Triumph he’s worked with Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee’s Methods of Mayhem, Alice Cooper, Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne. Motley Crue drummer Lee has called X “My favourite guitar player.”

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