The Providence Journal article
|Bon Jovi's simple formula still works
FOXBORO -- Twenty-four years after their first single, "Runaway," Bon Jovi is still filling stadiums (drawing 50,000 to Gillette Stadium here last night) while the bands who thought they wouldn't last are playing Joey's Tiki Hut in Waukeegan (at best) and the critics who thought they wouldn't last are on Social Security. How'd that happen?
Well, let us count the ways: a classic frontman in Jon Bon Jovi who has lost nothing from his radio-ready voice, crowd-rousing athleticism or telegenic looks; a lead guitarist, Richie Sambora, who makes for a classic second banana and plays the most sing-along-able solos since The Cars' Elliot Easton; a straight-down-the-middle drummer in Tico Torres; and a keyboardist, David Bryan who leads the still-spot-on background vocals (along with a hired-hand keyboardist and guitarist). Of course, two-plus hours of mid-tempo, melodically simple shout-along choruses don't hurt, as long as you can still deliver them, which Bon Jovi did. (Well, they lost a couple inches on the fastball of "Runaway," but who's counting?)
Mainly, though, it's because, their music has grown up with their audience, from Ground Zero of hair metal to the adult contemporary of much of their latest record, Have a Nice Day. The classics, of course, had their spotlight last night -- "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Bad Medicine" (which had an unfortunate bit of "Shout" transplanted into the middle of it), "Wanted Dead or Alive," "I'll Be There For You" (sung last night by Sambora) and more. But a sizable chunk of their set list came from their 21st-century albums, including "Just Older," "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars" and the hit "It's My Life," all from 2000's Crush, as well as the title track from Have a Nice Day, the hit "Who Says You Can't Go Home" and "Wildflower," which according to Bon Jovi hadn't been played live before last night. While the sounds have changed, the basic Bon Jovi viewpoint has stayed the same: I'll be there for you. We've got something to believe in, even if we don't know where we stand. You and me, we're invincible together. I like the bed I'm sleeping in. We've got each other, and that's a lot. (The country success of "Who Says You Can't Go Home" isn't really all that surprising, in this context.) With a few exceptions ("Runaway," "You Give Love a Bad Name") it's about fidelity and love and all the verities, as comfortable as an old sweater. It's more about reinforcing the things we all know are true, and unabashedly of this world. The very greatest bands create their own world, and make it a place you'd like to live in (or at least visit), and Bon Jovi isn't there. But with all the other above-listed ingredients, plus the healthy percentage of newer material in last night's show, they won't be heading to the Tiki Hut anytime soon.
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