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December 12, 2007

MTS Centre, Winnipeg - December 9, 2007

WINNIPEG - Not long ago, a certain bunch of Jersey-born radio staples sought to head their critics off at the pass by calling their boxed set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong.
Well, the ageless rockers only managed to draw about 16,000 of those fans to the MTS Centre last night. But even though that boxed set is just begging for a witty retort, we're still not about to argue with a single one of 'em.
And we're being facetious, of course, when we say "only 20,000." As any good Bon Jovi fan can tell you, tickets to last night's show sold out in a matter of minutes, meaning the Phone Booth was literally packed to the rafters by the time Jon, Richie and the rest took to the stage.

(Heck, a few hundred devoted even plunked down cash for seats BEHIND the stage, meaning they paid dearly for the privilege of not actually seeing the band all night.)

Those with a better vantage point know how the opening moments played out. First, the lights went up on a trio of backing musicians, crooning a front porch cover of Hank Williams' Lost Highway.

As they did, the rest of the Bon Jovi roster filed in from opposite ends of the stage, which had been trussed up to look like a Wild West saloon. And no surprise, but it was the band's frontman who drew the biggest cheers when he arrived to kick off a far poppier Lost Highway, the title track from Bon Jovi's new country-rock crossover disc.

The genre is a good match for Jon, whose voice has always fallen somewhere between heavy metal and hillbilly territory, anyway. But he kept the purists happy, too, with a trio of Slippery When Wet-era hits -- You Give Love a Bad Name, Raise Your Hands, and I'd Die For You -- that time-warped much of the crowd back to their acid-washed glory days.

Clad in a leather jacket and jeans, Bon Jovi -- who hasn't aged a whole lot since Slippery streeted in 1986 -- was clearly savoring all the crowd's love, grinning impishly in between numbers and slapping palms with those in the front rows.

"It might be cold as the devil out there, but it's gonna be hot as hell inside," he promised, before switching gears with Just Older, from the 2000 album Crush.

Next up was more of the country stuff -- Lost Highway's Summertime and Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore, both of which sounded tailor-made for the CMT crowd.

At times, Sambora was left playing second fiddle to the onstage fiddle player (who also supplied the LeAnn Rimes vocal on Strangers), but he eventually knocked out a tasty solo, and redeemed himself further on the '88 track Born to Be My Baby.


The less said about We Got It Goin' On -- the uber-lame duet penned with Big & Rich -- the better, and that goes double for a cover of the Isley Brothers' Shout. Thankfully, we were left with far fonder memories of anthems like It's My Life, Bad Medicine, and (anticipated closer) Livin' On a Prayer, which had the fans -- none of whom could possibly be wrong, remember? -- pumping their fists as if the '80s had never ended.

Earlier, Canuck hard-rockers Hedley proved there is life after Canadian Idol, turning in a half-hour set of pop-punk that translated surprisingly well to an arena setting. Jacob Hoggard and crew are best known for punchier tunes like recent single She's So Sorry, but they aligned themselves with the Bon Jovi crowd via power-ballads like Trip and For the Nights I Can't Remember.

Posted by riesambo at December 12, 2007 06:43 AM