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February 25, 2006

Bon Jovi's rock recipe pleases fans

"After you come see this band live, you're going to be converted," Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora said late last year.

Um . . . got any other suggestions?

Bon Jovi has packed arenas for decades; the Pepsi Center was solidly sold out Thursday night with a crowd that stayed on its feet from the first note.

The band members are earnest, genuine guys, especially leader Jon Bon Jovi. They do benefit concerts. On this tour they had local bands open the show (Thursday night, Bodragaz got the slot).

They brought stunning technology to the Pepsi Center, with the biggest, sharpest big screen imaginable and some truly stellar camera work. They flew an extra stack of speakers near the rear to make sure all fans had good sound - an expense that even Paul McCartney didn't bother with despite his $250 tickets.

Jon Bon Jovi has a great voice, and the band is tight and enthused.

But I've never seen the appeal. The music has always felt generic, forced, false, and catching the band live didn't help. The only difference with the live performance is that Bon Jovi frequently drops the final chorus of each hit back to the rhythm track to let the crowd do the singing.

Clearly it's just me; 18,000 fans are raving to friends and co-workers this morning about the great show they saw.

It just feels like paint-by-numbers rock, starting with the songwriting. By mining its niche, Bon Jovi has been putting out consistent, unchallenging albums with McDonald's- like efficiency. It's all outlaws and rebels and redemption with a good woman.

The recipe is the same. Start with a cliché: Wanted Dead or Alive, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Last Man Standing, It's My Life, Story of My Life - the list is endless. Rhyme some words with those clichés and set it to power-ballad sincerity or big arena riffs. Serve hot.

For fans, the concert must have been heaven. Starting with Last Man Standing, Jon Bon Jovi made an entrance at the rear of the arena and thrilled fans by high-fiving his way up to the stage where the band immediately plunged into You Give Love a Bad Name.

Deftly combining the better songs off the new Have a Nice Day with '80s and '90s classics, the band was sharp, the sound was stellar (especially during the obligatory midshow acoustic set), and the view was great all around.

Late in the show, Jon took to another small stage in the audience for Blaze of Glory. He then walked through the crowd singing, and rather than being mobbed, he was surrounded by polite reverence.

Wish I could be part of that party. No grade for this review because even if I don't get it, the band certainly gave the fans what they wanted.

By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
February 24, 2006

Posted by riesambo at February 25, 2006 11:02 AM