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December 12, 2005

Bon Jovi gives hair metal a good name

It’s all about the hookup. The opening bands for megawatt rockers Bon Jovi at the Garden Friday night and tonightwereBoston-grown rock acts Damone and Era for a Moment, respectively. How did the lucky unsigned acts (Damone recently lost its RCA deal after one album) hook up with the hoary hair-metal beast that is the ever-popular Bon Jovi?

They submitted their art to that age-old pop ordeal, the talent contest. Specifically, Bon Jovi and XM Satellite Radio’s “Have a Nice Gig” battle of the bands competition.

Damone stepped right up to the plate, delivering keen, melodic hard rock - and with such confidence that you’d never think the female-fronted quartet’s last gig was upstairs at the Middle East, two nights earlier.

Though both shows were sold-out, Damone played to plenty of empty seats. Clearly Bon Jovi doesn’t need any hookup. No, the New Jersey superstars sold every darn ticket on their own sweat.

Not literal sweat. Bon Jovi, the clean-cut pop metal act that broke with the naughtily titled “Slippery When Wet” almost 20 years ago, doesn’t sweat. But then, expanded to a seven-piece, with an additional guitarist and keyboard player, the musical workload was spread out.

Old-school guitarist Richie Sambora’s grimaces and fret grappling, and Jon Bon Jovi’s fine, big voice and blond-moment prancing aside, the essence of Bon Jovi’s appeal is the good old bouncy sing-along. Newer songs (“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”) and downright oldies (“Runaway”) mixed with those from this year’s album, “Have a Nice Day.” A cover of the Jeff Lynne/Tom Petty-penned anthem “I Won’t Back Down” was an elegantly solemn addition.

But it was the unbridled Jovi hits (“You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the comeback anthem “It’s My Life”) that triggered that euphoric but scary tremor of human voice en masse.

Despite Bon Jovi’s ’90s career slump, when grunge made all the ’80s painted prima donnas look like gutter geishas, Bon Jovi has emerged heroic.

Who doesn’t love a hero? Or a sing-along?

By Linda Laban
Sunday, December 11, 2005 - Updated: 10:00 AM EST

Posted by riesambo at December 12, 2005 12:07 PM