« Jody wins battle to open for Bon Jovi at Giants’ Stadium | Main | Sambora / Locklear 42 »

March 03, 2006

Jon Bon Jovi lifts otherwise disappointing show in San Jose

Jon Bon Jovi lifts otherwise disappointing show in San Jose

By Jim Harrington, STAFF WRITER

MANY OF Bon Jovi's older songs haven't aged well, and the band's new material is pretty bad.
But the group features Jon Bon Jovi as its lead singer — and that's all it really needs to be a fairly entertaining live band.
Bon Jovi, the man, proved once again Monday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose that he's a master front man, one who borrows significantly from many of the all-time greats (including Bruce Springsteen, Steven Tyler and Mick Jagger) and translates it to the pop-metal arena.
He's the reason this show worked at all. It certainly wasn't because of the tracks featured from last year's "Have a Nice Day," the band's first album since 2002's "Bounce." In fact, some of those songs, notably the title track and "Who Says You Can't Go Home," made this critic want to cover his ears — and not because the music was too loud.
Jon Bon Jovi just plain works hard for your money, in a way that fellow New Jersey homeboy Springsteen would certainly appreciate.
It started with the very first song, "Last Man Standing," as the lights went up and the husky-voiced singer appeared standing on a small elevated platform at the very back of the arena floor, while the rest of the band plugged away from the stage.
Dressed in a black military-style jacket and, of course, those tight faded jeans, Jon Bon Jovi was making a statement: Every fan in the house, not just those in the front rows, deserves to feel like part of the show.
It was such a crafty move, and it was so fun to see him walk back to the main stage through a sea of outstretched hands, that one almost overlooked the fact that it was a pretty ho-hum number to open the show.
But the concert wasn't ho-hum for long as the singer reached the stage and immediately gave the crowd a shot of adrenaline with the great rocker "You Give Love a Bad Name," one of several key numbers from 1986's blockbuster "Slippery When Wet."
From there, musically speaking, things quickly went downhill fast. The version of the new album's "Complicated" sounded like an oversimplified cross between glossy Loverboy and overwrought Third Eye Blind — not a good thing. The over-the-top love paean "Born to Be My Baby," from 1988's lackluster home-state tribute "New Jersey," sounded like a John Mellencamp tune played on the wrong speed — also not a good thing.
But even during the likes of these iffy tunes, Jon Bon Jovi kept things interesting. He works the stage like a preacher does a revival tent, reaching up to the heavens or stretching his arms out to the crowd as if the very physicality of his actions might help sell the message. And it does.
Of course, even a whole crew of acrobats performing aerial gymnastics wouldn't be enough physicality to sell some of these songs. And, yep, you guessed it — most, but not all, of the real stinkers hail from "Have a Nice Day."

The new CD's "Story of My Life" is the type of sappy number that would work for Clay Aiken or any other "American Idol." "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," from 1992's "Keep the Faith," was even worse, recalling the pumped-up party anthems of country idol Kenny Chesney.
The funny thing about Bon Jovi these days is how much the band sounds like a "new country" act. Honestly, if the band had originated in 2006, instead of some 24 years earlier, it might be looking at a long career in that genre. The group's sleek, pop-influenced sound is certainly closer to what's being played on "young country" radio than what one finds on current rock stations.
Plus, the lack of cowboy hats and the reliance on cheesy keyboard and '80s-style guitar leads would only be a plus with today's country fans.
After a nice run through the 1984 smash "Runaway," which featured some memorable guitar work from Richie Sambora, it was back to more schmaltz. Toss in some steel guitar, maybe a fiddle run, and "Just Older," from the 2000-comeback-effort "Crush," could have been a bland Chesney tune.
The latter half of the term "pop-metal" completely fell out of view during the shiny "Crush"-tune "It's My Life." During this number, Bon Jovi sounded practically like a middle-aged boy band — which, like you need me to tell you, is definitely not a good thing. I mean, didn't N'SYNC originally do this song? It's got Justin Timberlake's fingerprints all over it. All we needed was some flash pots to ignite at the last verse and some choreographed steps and we'd be there, man.
Things improved considerably, as one might expect, toward the end of the show as the band latched on to such old-school rockers as "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive," both of which hail from "Slippery When Wet." Jon Bon Jovi, as a true showman always does, seemed to save a little extra for the finale and really closed the show in triumphant fashion.
Despite the weak material featured from "Have a Nice Day," Jon Bon Jovi's ability as a front man still makes it possible for fans to have a nice show.

Posted by riesambo at March 3, 2006 09:09 AM