SALT LAKE CITY — There are few bands left today that rose to prominence in the 80s that can still fill arenas and stadiums for a world tour.
Bon Jovi is one of those bands.
A large crowd of 30 and 40 something-year-olds (with a smattering of youngsters who weren’t even born when Slippery When Wet came out) re-lived their high school days with an evening of 2+hours of rock anthems, power ballads and no opening act.
As you would expect at a Bon Jovi concert, the audience went wild for the big 3 hits off the Slippery When Wet album – “You Give Love A Bad Name,” “Living on A Prayer” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” A deeper track off the album, however, “Raise Your Hands,” came off exceptionally well and was one of the highlights of the night, possibly because it doesn’t get much airplay on mainstream radio anymore.
The stage production – highlighted by a high definition video wall that honestly made projected images look 3D without the assistance of special glasses – was also everything you’d expect at a Bon Jovi concert: big, elaborate, over-the-top, and cool to see.
But even 4.5 million pixels couldn’t outshine the show’s main attraction.
At 51, Jon Bon Jovi can still make women in the audience swoon. He played cheerleader throughout the evening to get keep audience involved, something he has done so well during his entire career, all while giving an advanced course on rock star “poses.” Though at times he seemed to be going through the same motions that can be seen at the same moment during the same song at any Bon Jovi concert, as well as placating the crowd with cries of “Are you still with me?,” JBJ also had plenty of moments were he truly seemed to be working his butt off to get more out of the audience. At one point he even playfully called out a fan who was texting during a song. By the end, Jon Bon Jovi seemed genuinely out of gas, leaving all he had on stage.
Yes, the band’s newer material, from a songwriting writing and musical composition standpoint, is probably stronger than the older material. And yes, Bon Jovi’s What About Now album was No. 1. But songs off the new album didn’t energize the crowd as much as the older material. Songs like “That’s What the Water Made Me,” “Lost Highway” and “Whole Lot of Leavin'” didn’t elicit the same reaction as “Born to Be My Baby,” “Bed of Roses,” “Runaway,” Bad Medicine.” or even “Have A Nice Day.”
As for the Richie Sambora situation, who dropped off the tour earlier this month due to personal issues: without Sambora there was clearly one front man, Jon. With Sambora in the lineup, it’s almost like having two people out front.
Phil X is filling in for Sambora, and Bobby Bandiera was on rhythm guitar, as he was last tour. Phil X could definitely hold his own as far as playing the guitar parts. But whether it was a purposeful move not, he stayed more in the background Wednesday night rather than appearing as a Sambora substitute. In fact, the lead guitar parts were shifted between Phil X, Bandiera and even Jon Bon Jovi – who strapped on a six-string more this show than in previous tours – so no one guitarist was highlighted the entire evening.
As for Tico Torres, David Bryan and Summit County resident Hugh McDonald, they played like a unit that has been together for so many years, that one almost forgot they were there. They went about their business being a tight unit all night without a lot of flash.