The Detroit News article
|Bon Jovi in cruise control at Ford Field show
Bon Jovi revved up at Ford Field on Thursday night, playing on a massive stage that was shaped like the front end of a ’59 Buick. But the band’s gas tank was only about half-full.
Bon Jovi is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the band can still put up big numbers — this year’s “What About Now” album debuted at No. 1 the Billboard chart — Bon Jovi in 2013 is a business primarily fueled by nostalgia. Meanwhile, the absence of guitarist Richie Sambora, who is currently on hiatus from the band for undisclosed reasons, lessened the impact of what should have been a bigger celebration. (Canadian guitarist Phil X is filling his spot.)
While Ford Field was near capacity on Thursday night, the show didn’t feel stadium-sized. Aside from the striking stage design — that Buick front is a monster, and it was framed by a handsome array of high-definition video screens — it was a show better suited to an arena setting, which is about as intimate as Bon Jovi is likely to get for the foreseeable future.
As the song goes, Jon Bon Jovi’s seen a million faces, and he’s rocked them all — but some of those songs he’s been rocking them with feel like they’re on their millionth play. During “You Give Love a Bad Name,” played second in the set on Thursday, Jon Bon Jovi ran the song’s words together, which made it feel like he was just trying to get through the song one more time. “Raise Your Hands” fared better, benefiting in part from not being nearly as overexposed as “You Give Love a Bad Name.” But “Born to Be My Baby,” from 1988’s “New Jersey” LP, fell desperately flat, setting the tone for a long night ahead.
Things thankfully picked up from there, but the show never really got out of first gear. At 51, Jon Bon Jovi is still energetic and youthful, and his flashy white smile still lights up like a scoreboard. He worked the crowd like a calisthenics instructor, getting them to raise their arms and wave them in the air in unison. And his hard work showed in the sweat puddles on his shirt, the kind of effort that is expected out of a blue collar band like Bon Jovi and appreciated by a Detroit audience.
But the songs weren’t connecting, not the way they usually do. Part of it could have been that massive stage, which frankly dwarfed the band in an already oversize environment. U2 can host huge stadium extravaganzas, but the band members always feel as big as the staging. Bon Jovi, on the other hand, struggled to keep up with the girth of their stage, and it didn’t help that Jon Bon Jovi only briefly utilized the massive catwalk that made a half-circle around the front portion of the audience. “I wasted two hours up here when all the action is out there!” he said, after making his way across the stage late in the show during “Bad Medicine.” But presumably that was the case with other shows on the tour as well, so why not just go out there more?
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