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July 29, 2006

There’s no treat like a Jon Bon at Gillette

This may seem obvious, but Bon Jovi is all about Bon Jovi. Jon Bon Jovi, that is.

While Jon and his band were a couple of thousand seats short of a sellout, Jon didn’t have much trouble charming a massive audience of appreciative New Englanders Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Most bands capable of captivating football stadiums need frontmen of enormous charisma. Yes, hits are important, but Foreigner has hits, Chicago has hits. To get to this level, a band needs a face: A band needs a Bruce, a Bono, a Jon.

The show began with an average song, “Last Man Standing,” off “Have a Nice Day,” but for Jon that wasn’t a problem. Strutting and strumming his black acoustic guitar, he circled a catwalk that extended 100 feet onto the floor of the stadium. He had most of these fans before he even said hello.

The band bounced back and forth between favorites, such as “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Bad Medicine,” and material from its three 21st century albums for more than two hours. Unexpectedly, Bon Jovi was more comfortable with the newer songs, which have a buoyant, optimistic sound. Maybe the guys have lost a step, or some enthusiasm, but on some older tracks they almost sounded like a Bon Jovi cover band. Jon even looked to be short of breath on “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

The notable exception was “Runaway,” the group’s first hit, which Jon wrote in 1982. Before the song he asked the audience to climb in his 50,000-seat time machine and, for a few minutes, Jon’s voice was as fresh and eager as an 18-year-old’s.

But, occasional gasping aside, Jon is ageless. He joked with the crowd that he “refused to be treated like another boy toy,” but that’s kind of what he is - a less artistic, better-looking Springsteen whose little nods and winks electrify the crowd. If he’s made it this far on looks and hooks, why should he stop now?

Jon’s wingman in the band, guitarist Richie Sambora, hasn’t found the same fountain of youth. He’s still a great metal and blues guitarist with a decent mug, but that doesn’t really distinguish him from his peers. Sambora doesn’t shine like his counterpart.

As an opener, Nickleback did what it could, played its best stuff - mostly radio-friendly, postgrunge ballads including “How You Remind Me” and “Far Away” - but it doesn’t have the talent it takes to engage an audience of this size.

Posted by riesambo at July 29, 2006 10:41 AM