Bon Jovi concert review – Energy Solutions Arena, March 22, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY — If anyone can figure out how to bottle up Jon Bon Jovi’s energy and market it, they’d make a fortune.

Tuesday night at Energy Solutions Arena, the youthful 49-year-old rocker bounced, skipped, hopped and jumped for more than two hours before a packed crowd inside a very warm building.

Bon Jovi, one of the biggest bands in the world and the band with the top grossing tour of all 2010, made their return to Utah with a crowd pleasing mostly-greatest hits set list spanning their entire career from “Runaway” to “The More Things Change.”

Opening with “Blood on Blood from the New Jersey album, the charismatic Jon Bon Jovi instantly became a cheerleader, prompting much of the crowd to stand for the entire show. The veteran musician had all the rock star poses down and knew how to play the crowd. Vocally, he seemed to get stronger the more he got warmed up.

It was songs off the band’s multi-platinum 1980’s Slippery When Wet and New Jersey records that garnered the loudest applause and sing-a-longs for the evening, such as “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Born to Be My Baby,” “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” “I’ll Be There for You” and an energetic rendition of “Bad Medicine” mixed with Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”

Musically, it was some of Bon Jovi’s more recent material that actually sounded best in concert such as “Lost Highway,” “It’s My Life,” “What Do You Got?,” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home (sans Jennifer Nettles), “Have a Nice Day” and “Keep the Faith.”

Before the concert, I was with a group that was given a backstage tour of the production (more on that shortly) and one of the head stage crew members said that Jon liked using the newest, latest and greatest stage props available.

That was more than evident Tuesday as Bon Jovi showed off some rotating lights and digital screens (dubbed the RoboScreens) that most in the audience likely had never seen before. The centerpiece was a large video screen that throughout the night transformed into a several smaller digital screens and like a puzzle could break itself down into much smaller blocks and reassemble again.

The circular stage itself wasn’t the largest ever seen. Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora played up front while in the rear the tight playing group of Tico Torres on drums, David Bryan on the keyboards, Bobby Bandiera on rhythm guitar and Summit County resident Hugh McDonald on bass provided excellent musicianship and background vocals all night. The stage also included a semi-circle catwalk that went several rows deep into the crowd.

Sambora took over vocals for “Lay Your Hands On Me.” But it was Bon Jovi’s voice that got the biggest crowd reaction of the evening. He did a very respectable job on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Bon Jovi also recalled filming the video in Moab for “Blaze of Glory” off his solo effort on the Young Guns II soundtrack, before launching into the song.

The night ended with “I Love This Town” and fan favorite “Livin’ On A Prayer” with deafening “whoa-oh” sing-a-long chorus from the audience.

Before the concert, a very lucky group of BYU students studying in the fields of public relations, communications, audio and film got an invitation to get some real life lessons outside the classroom and got to watch the Bon Jovi stage crew set up the stage from start to finish. I’ll have a story on their unforgettable experience later today.

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