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July 15, 2008

Richie Sambora Scores in Central Park

It’s not taking away anything from Jon Bon Jovi’s amazing performance in Central Park last night to say that Richie Sambora almost stole the whole show with one song.

The occasion, of course, was Bon Jovi’s ebullient free concert in the park put together by Randy Phillips and AEG Live, and sponsored by a bunch of people like Bank of America (they had huge white balloons with their logo emblazoned on them bouncing around).

My old pal Mark Shimmel from Arista Records was there as part of the team to film the show for TNT.

There weren’t many celebs in the crowd as most were spending another summer Saturday in the Hamptons or Europe. But director Penny Marshall was rocking out (and crabbing too, ‘natch), and designer Kenneth Cole was spotted in the crowd.

And the crowd could not have loved the show more, except for Jon Bon Jovi. The rocker with the movie-star looks had a gigantic smile plastered across his face for the full two hours of his unyieldingly athletic, knockout show. If you want to lose weight, just reproduce Bon Jovi’s work out from one of his shows. He must lose 10 pounds a night!

He also sings and sings and sings. Bon Jovi’s songs may not be particularly topical — they’re love songs — but they are wordy, old-fashioned, constructed numbers with real choruses and verses. And he sings almost all of it — from the declarations of “It’s My Life” to the cha cha of “Keep the Faith.” And in between he throws in snippets of “Shout” and “Twist and Shout.”

But then there’s Richie, sporting a fedora, looking and sounding healthier than ever. And maybe it will come out in the filmed version of the show, but his lead vocal on “I’ll Be There for You” (not the "Friends" theme!) was the surprise highlight of the night. Richie has a beautiful, rich, R&B-like voice, very different from Bon Jovi’s. When it’s showcased, the fans go wild. And that was the case last night.

One interesting thing about Jon Bon Jovi: his songs and his performance just keep getting better with every year. You can’t say that about most rockers. But songs like “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” “Keep the Faith” and “Have a Nice Day” are two decades newer than his original material and better built to last.

Bon Jovi is a scrapper, too. Cast a little in Bruce Springsteen’s long shadow, he’s like the New Jersey Tony Bennett to the Boss’s Frank Sinatra. Unlike Bennett, though, Bon Jovi hasn’t had to wait — thank goodness — until his predecessor kicks the bucket to reap his deserved rewards.

Posted by riesambo at July 15, 2008 06:14 AM