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March 08, 2006

Bon Jovi keeps it simple, and that's how fans like it

A tried-and-true blend of power-pop hooks and smoldering looks leaves 'em happy at a packed Staples Center show.

By Randy Lewis, Times Staff Writer

In 500 years, all modes of transportation as we know them will be extinct, travel and communication will take place at the speed of thought, and food will be a thing of the past because we'll have figured out how to absorb nutrients directly at the cellular level.

Yet you can bet that somewhere in the universe there will still be an anti-grav stage floating in a futuristic arena where long-haired guys in leather will be strumming power chords and wheedling electric guitar solos for throngs of fist-pumping humanoids pretty much the way Bon Jovi did Friday at a packed Staples Center.

There were times when the scene played out like something trapped in a time bubble, uncontaminated by seismic shifts in the pop landscape since the strikingly handsome Jon Bon Jovi, now 44, and his New Joisey bandmates came on the scene in the early '80s.

But the group, enjoying a second wind from its career-rejuvenating "Have a Nice Day" album, made its case for tuneful arena rock that rarely loses sight of journeyman craftsmanship.

Art it ain't, but it does command a certain amount of respect, as does the band's decision to weave in new material throughout the show.

The album shows that Bon Jovi's knack for earnestly catchy rock is undiminished, but it remains not so much Springsteen Lite as Bob Seger Lite. It's politely edgy rock for contented rebels, music that doesn't rail at injustice or mediocrity but gently and generically bumps up against it.

Still, the success of "Have a Nice Day," which is nearing the 1 million sales mark in the U.S., is a reminder that hip-hop, R&B, pop-punk, emo, scream-o and other genres drawing most of the media attention today haven't rubbed out the audience for what Bon Jovi provides. That would be hook-laden melodies and ideas presented in instantly graspable four- and five-word lyric phrases sung by an affably charismatic, non-threatening frontman.

Contrary to what Bon Jovi sang in one of the new album's songs about how he's "Complicated," his appeal, and the group's, is anything but.

Posted by riesambo at March 8, 2006 01:29 PM