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July 21, 2006

Bon Jovi Comes Home to New Jersey, With Sound and Hair Still Big

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., July 18 — “I’m ready for whatever: rain, thunder, lightning, sleet, snow,” Jon Bon Jovi assured the crowd at Giants Stadium on Tuesday. “I’ve come home.” Of course the main reason his band sold out three nights at this 80,000-capacity behemoth is that he never really left.

There is one sure way to sustain an arena-size rock career past the two-decade mark: Stay exactly the same. And like his fellow Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen, Mr. Bon Jovi has done just that. At 44 he has the same boyish face, hard-rock sound, working-class values and dramatic hair as he did in his 20’s. There is something comforting about his undying relevance, as if as long as he is advising fans to “hold on to what we’ve got,” there will always be small-town men who marry their high school sweethearts, sell 100 million records and live in chateaus in unfairly maligned states.

His band, Bon Jovi, has been mocked as slight since the 80’s hair-metal era, but its simple, hooky anthems translate perfectly in an enormous environment. And it has mastered the art of the slick rock spectacle. From the imaginative lighting to the band’s grandiose, Jumbotron-ready gestures (“I love this,” the guitarist Richie Sambora mouthed with a kinglike sweep of his arm), the show was kinetically choreographed and professionally fun. Underscoring the homecoming vibe, Mr. Bon Jovi thanked the extended Sambora family for “selling out Giants Stadium,” then Mr. Sambora sang “I’ll Be There for You” for his ailing father.

Mr. Bon Jovi is an energetic and unrelenting charmer, the kind of frontman who always knows exactly where the cameras are focused. Every few songs, a fresh crop of wild-eyed fans (mostly women in skimpy tank tops) was herded into onstage observation pens. He would greet them with huge smiles and direct eye contact, occasionally proffering his backside for sex-symbol groping. (The girls were often too busy posing seductively for snapshots.) As he shook his head during his first hit, “Runaway,” from 1983, beads of sweat seemed to orbit him in cinematically slow motion.

During “Bad Medicine,” as he struck his first Christlike pose of the evening, a sudden gale came out of nowhere, blowing his sun-streaked locks back like a wind machine. Dramatically, a hard rain began to fall. “Somebody up there is just mad he couldn’t get into a sold-out Bon Jovi concert,” he said.

The downpour added a welcome edge of spontaneity to a well-oiled show. By the time Mr. Bon Jovi sang his recent country radio smash (well, perhaps he has changed a little), “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” he was completely soaked from running out into the field on a riser. Enormous bolts of lightning struck as the encore began, and people who had been waiting nearly two hours for “Living on a Prayer” finally fled the grounds, looking over their shoulders as they sang along.

“Be careful getting out of here,” Mr. Bon Jovi warned, and stadium security ended the concert early. He looked crestfallen, as if he had been planning to play all night.

Bon Jovi will return to Giants Stadium on July 29. The show is sold out.

Posted by riesambo at July 21, 2006 06:17 AM