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January 22, 2006

Bon Jovi fills the bill

Arena-rock pros give devoted fans a solid, stunning serving of hits


Bon Jovi played before some 20,000 people inside HSBC Arena Friday, on the eve of a four-night, sold-out booking in Toronto. There were no real surprises. Just plenty of fist-pumping, arena-pop anthems, and a mother lode of face time with singer Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora, his musical partner and on-stage foil for the past 23 years.
In 2005, Bon Jovi topped the 100-million-albums-sold plateau. Based on Friday's show, this band is just getting started.

Opening with his personal manifesto, "Last Man Standing," Jon Bon Jovi - emerging, a la U2's Bono (and Kiss' Paul Stanley) on a satellite stage to the rear of the arena - coaxed Beatlemania-level squeals from the capacity crowd, and proceeded to work the fans like a consummate professional from that point forward.

The hits came fast and furious, reminding us that this is a seasoned act capable of summoning arena-rock rapture systematically. Bon Jovi the band knows how to work a crowd old-school, like it used to do it in the '80s, and play energetically, play well, be a well-oiled machine and give the people what they want.

What they wanted was clearly "You Give Love a Bad Name," which came second, and featured an earsplitting sing-along, all laid at the feet of the buff and beaming Jon. Keep in mind that, for the faithful, this band can do no wrong.

Songs may sound similar, even formulaic. Bon Jovi plays three types of songs: pop-metal, rock-candy ravers; earnest, folk-pop, pseudo-Springsteen roots-rockers; and blatantly melodramatic power-ballads - all of which Jon sings with both commitment and refinement, and striking a nerve with the fans.

Bobby Bandiera, of Southside Johnny and the Jukes, played auxiliary guitar and sang harmony, and his presence made this more of a New Jersey affair. In essence, Bon Jovi songs are Jersey pop, barroom sing-alongs with pristine, catchy choruses, a touch of hard-rock muscle courtesy of the band's uber-tight rhythm section (drummer Tico Torres is the definition of solid) and a hint of Aerosmith-esque grit by way of Sambora's bluesy solos.

Bon Jovi gave Buffalo a stunning show. This is not deep music, nor is it intended to be. It's escapism, pure and simple, and Bon Jovi is a band well-equipped to make you forget yourself for a little while.

Posted by riesambo at January 22, 2006 11:13 PM