|Bon Jovi Earns R-E-S-P-E-C-T
A curious fact about the music business: If you stick around long enough, everyone will like you.
Just ask Bon Jovi. Once little more than a trendy hit-maker, Jon Bon Jovi is now an American icon, even something of an American artist. Like Madonna or Aerosmith, he can sell out stadiums and earn the grudging respect of critics in the process.
That's due partly to his undeniable gifts as a performer. At 41, Bon Jovi looks as pretty as ever, with a wide, white smile visible from the rafters. He's incredibly agile, able to run and do jumping jacks and bend backwards on his tip-toes. And talk about charisma: For 2 1/2 hours, he made a crowd of 60,000 rain- drenched ticketholders feel like they were the sexy ones.
But the real key to Bon Jovi's success is consistency. Over his 20-year career (the band of the same name formed in 1983), he's managed to change his approach, cutting his hair to keep up with fashion and amping up his guitars to compete with today's heavy rock. Underneath it all, however, Bon Jovi sticks to what he does best: youthful American rock, with small-town story lines and winning melodies.
Bon Jovi kicked off the show with "Bounce," the stuttering title track from his new album, followed immediately by the career-making single "Livin' on a Prayer." That one-two punch set the pattern for the show, in which the band made sure to cover nearly all of its golden-era hits and more recent successes.
Guitarist Richie Sambora has grown out of youthful pyrotechnics; he's more concerned with flavor and texture. Again and again, he took off on a bluesy solo, then effortlessly guided the notes back to the refrain, most notably on the old favorite "Raise Your Hands." Sambora even took the spotlight for a solo song, "I'll Be There for You," revealing a serviceable, husky voice.
The show had its weak moments, particularly on "Livin' on a Prayer." Bon Jovi let the crowd sing every chorus and never once sang it himself, an omission so noticeable that it's logical to wonder if those high notes are still in his reach. Elsewhere, the band couldn't resist a few slices of cheese: A sensitive keyboard passage from David Bryan, another beating of the dead horse known as "Shout." But for a Bon Jovi concert, the corny moments were surprisingly few.
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