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May 03, 2005

reviewjournal.com -- News

Bon Jovi, Nine Inch Nails help venue mark anniversary


Ten years and one month ago, the Hard Rock Hotel opened on a cold, rainy night. While invited guests were treated to an eclectic musical celebration inside, a few determined have-nots huddled outdoors to watch the festivities on a closed-circuit TV screen, a gesture intended to ensure that no one felt excluded from the new property.

Saturday, the weather helped the Hard Rock celebrate the refined money-making machine it has become. Two concerts the same night showed how the hotel continues to embrace its most desired demographics of supporters.

Outside in the east parking lot bordering Paradise Road, not far from that opening-night TV broadcast, the hotel built an outdoor stage and grandstands entirely for a Bon Jovi concert catering to the nostalgia of sub-baby boomers.

It was a well-organized set-up resulting in a cheery, laid-back atmosphere on a perfect night. No one was in the mood to break a sweat, either onstage or in a diverse audience sporting a few parents with "tweeners" and a handful of celebrities, including 'N Sync's Lance Bass and Laura Prepon of "That '70s Show."

Jon Bon Jovi congratulated hotel developer Peter Morton and waved at folks watching from hotel rooms that weren't part of the original building 10 years ago. "Whatsa matter? You too cheap to buy a ticket?" he teased. "I'm going to come up there after we get done here and empty all your minibars."

Later, the hotel did something else it was good at: snagging a big "event" concert that maintains the buzz factor for a slightly younger Gen-X core customer. Inside The Joint concert venue was the re-emergence of Nine Inch Nails, doing a tune-up date for the band's big headlining gig Sunday at the Coachella festival in California.

The festivities were more intense here, celebrating a particular era of the '90s in which an underground sound emerged to take hold as a voice of popular rage. Trent Reznor's black-clad quintet seethed and exploded, over and over again, and the crowd sang along almost as merrily as the one outside did.

Under no other conditions would one compare these two bands, but because fate and Morton put them together, at least sort of almost, what the heck. Both lead singers have aged gracefully, if at all, exuding the kind of rock-star presence that separates those who last from those who don't. "Staying power's what everything's about these days," Bon Jovi noted to the crowd.

And as different as their music is, both Reznor and Bon Jovi understand an iron-clad rule of rock 'n' roll showmanship: You come out in the long-sleeved shirt first, then give 'em the pumped biceps in the sleeveless muscle shirt a few songs later.

And both groups have reached the point where they really don't care what the larger world thinks about them. Bon Jovi transcended its "hair band" beginnings to convince its loyal fans, if not the outside world, that it's more E Street Lite in tunes ranging from "Born To Be My Baby" to the recent "Radio Saved My Life Tonight."

Age hasn't mellowed Reznor's angst-ridden rage. "I've stayed on this track, gone too far and I can't come back," he sang in "Even Deeper," and fans expect no less.

Of the two sets, Reznor's was by far the more dynamic. Sure, fans on the less committed periphery might wish that more of the songwriting veered from the same formula of tribal, rhythmic build to cathartic primal-scream release, sometimes dropping abruptly to elegiac piano codas.

(Almost surreal, it was, to hear a group sing-along to "Hurt" -- "Everything I know goes away in the end" -- as though it were a saloon ballad.)

But the 100-minute set was impressive in its blistering mix of programmed rhythm and live instrumentation and included all of Nails' melodic touchtones, culminating in the latest single, "The Hand That Feeds," followed by the hit that started it all, "Head Like A Hole."

Bon Jovi frontloaded its 90-minute set with its two signature songs, "Livin' On A Prayer" and "You Give Love A Bad Name," leaving the band with nothing at the end but a stock cover of "Twist and Shout." Most of the midtempo rockers seemed a bit sluggish compared to their crisper recorded versions, but it wasn't an evening to nitpick.

Between shows, the lined-up Nine Inch Nails fans wisecracked about Bon Jovi fans lining up for taxis. Just proof that the Hard Rock has something for everyone, or at least everyone still willing to drop big money on a Saturday night.

Posted by riesambo at May 3, 2005 08:18 PM