Nashville Scene article
|Bon Jovi at Bridgestone Arena, Phoenix at Rites of Spring and more
With conventional wisdom as our guide, we felt secure in anticipation that Bon Jovi would treat us to the quintessential rock spectacle — they're a band you really only want to see in an arena, and we most definitely got the parade of powerhouse radio staples and shout-along choruses. So why did we come away from their Wednesday night show at Bridgestone Arena feeling a little disappointed? It's not because we felt bad fist-pumping to "You Give Love a Bad Name" while missing out on seeing Levon Helm sing "The Weight" at The Ryman. It's because the handful of obligatory hits we came to see was dispersed throughout a heavy-handed "miss"-laden set of overly earnest thematic train-wreckage. Plus, there was no pyro. WTF?
After opening with 1988's "Blood on Blood" — a song seemingly unfamiliar to most in the crowd — things immediately got uncomfortable as they followed the New Jersey deep cut with "We Weren't Born to Follow," the lead-off track to their latest, The Circle. The overwrought anthem was accompanied by a wall of video screens, which bombarded us with hackneyed platitudes like "move forward," "break the chain," "act now," "stand up," etc., most of which were lost on the crowd, some of whom booed when the words were displayed next to images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. We booed when images of Richie Sambora (mid-guitar solo) were juxtaposed with images of Jimi Hendrix, and images of Jon Bon were juxtaposed with images of Bob Dylan. Which brings us to the central problem of Bon Jovi's painstaking earnestness: It's hamfisted, clumsy and callous.
We quickly realized the band would spend a large part of the show making laughably broad, pseudo-uplifting gestures without ever tying them to a specific idea. The most profound examples of this were the Springsteen-for-dummies populist mess "Work for the Working Man" and the set-closing whisper-fest "Love's the Only Rule," which the band was obviously more passionate about than running through "Keep the Faith" for the 2,172nd time.
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