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Bon Jovi Promises and Then Delivers 12 March 2003
Times-Dispatch article

Source: Times-Dispatch

With a rascally grin that could light up Times Square, a chiseled, compact physique and enough Jersey boy charm to crack even a Calista Flockhart character, Jon Bon Jovi reigns as one of rock's current golden frontmen.

Maybe you've noticed that during the band's recent TV appearances, it was Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora - aka Mr. Heather Locklear - who sat on the couches and shook the hands, with the rest of the boys rarely in sight. As much as the band boasts about its brotherhood - and indeed it's a camaraderie that blooms onstage - there is little doubt who runs this franchise.

Jon Bon Jovi turned 41 last week, and he's as devastatingly handsome as ever. He and Sambora provide the eye candy for a generation of housewives and thirtysomethings who grew up with the band's keg party rock of the mid-'80s.

Now in its 20th year, Bon Jovi has survived one membership change (bassist Alec John Such was bumped for Hugh McDonald in the early'90s), a mid-'90s career slump and the usual trappings always available in the rock star vending machine.

But, though its eighth and current album, "Bounce," has underperformed, only recently hitting 500,000 in sales, Bon Jovi's concert base has hardly diminished.

On Sunday, the quintet (Bon Jovi, Sambora, McDonald, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres) stormed through two hours and 15 minutes of workmanlike anthems for a devout, sold-out crowd of about 17,000.

To complement the artwork and theme of the "Bounce" album, a trio of giant rotating satellite dishes towered onstage, the dishes eventually serving as video screens. From that album's title track to "You Give Love a Bad Name" to fan favorite "Wild in the Streets," Jon Bon Jovi didn't even stop to fix his perfectly floppy hair. The guy might want to look into his own line of aerobic tapes when this band thing goes away because he's exhausting to watch. Whether air boxing, pogoing on his heels or bopping through spurts of jumping jacks, Bon Jovi made his workout seem effortless.

"I won't waste time talking, I've got too much work to do up here: seven days a week, I deliver," Bon Jovi teased early in the show. But for him and the band, delivering is almost an autopilot assignment.

No way can he or Sambora hit the high notes anymore, and they didn't even try on a moving "Livin' on a Prayer," started by the audience, and the band's first hit, "Runaway." Jon Bon Jovi even handed Sambora the spotlight for "I'll Be There for You," a ballad better suited to Sambora's deeper, bluesier pipes, which Sambora accented with a finger-bleeding guitar solo.

But what this band does - and always has done - so well is keep an audience standing for more than two hours and send them home smiling. While not as stripped as say, a Springsteen concert, Bon Jovi doesn't rely on much stage clutter. Waves of green lasers careened through the arena during the crunchy "Everyday" and Sambora's snazzy talk box work during "It's My Life" decorated the song with a stronger sense of defiance and optimism.


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