Saturday, February 19, 2011
Bon Jovi thrills fans at Bell Centre
In the first of two sold-out shows at the Bell Centre on Friday night, Jon Bon Jovi and his New Jersey arena-rockers had 21,000 fists – double that number for some songs –pushing upward along with the insistent 4/4 beats and anthemic hooks.
“It’s” (pump) “my” (pump) “life” (pump) was the makeshift choreography, with an arena full of ecstatic fans taking the song’s carpe-diem message to heart.
It made complete sense, because the crowd at a Bon Jovi show deserves, at the very least, equal billing with the headliners.
The group’s music has, for almost three decades, not really been about musical challenge. You could always hear one of those big Bon Jovi choruses coming from several blocks away. What it has always done is provide a springboard for big, communal moments.
It’s true, simple, heartland rock, ever more so since the group decided to mix a little country in with Richie Sambora’s industrial-strength string bending.
And boy, did the fans get what they came for this time. While it was one of those nights where the no-smoking and fire-exit announcements drew excited cheering, Jon Bon Jovi wasted no time in upping the ante, jumping up on a small platform at the direct opposite end of the arena from the stage to open the concert with Last Man Standing.
After that surprising kickoff, some harried-looking security guards guided the singer across the Bell Centre to the main stage as he tried to press the flesh with fans on his way.
Once he arrived at his destination, he goaded the fans to get out of their seats. Like those instructions were needed – at any point.
Perhaps Bon Jovi’s most obvious gift is his showmanship. He’s capable of strutting with Mick Jagger-esque athleticism, as he did on staggered stage surfaces in We Got It Goin’ On, making sure even those in the crummy seats felt close to the action. Or he can do a pensive pause and drive the crowd even crazier, as he did at the end of Whole Lot of Leaving.
During an unplugged sequence, the four key members of the group – Bon Jovi, Sambora, keyboard player David Bryan on accordion and drummer Tico Torres – lined up on the catwalk and consciously tried to tone down the proceedings a little with three-part harmonies on Something For the Pain and a charming cover of the Who’s Squeeze Box, among other acoustic moments.
But it was the crowd-baiting biggies that dominated the night. You Give Love a Bad Name, Bad Medicine (done as a medley with Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman) and Sambora’s showcase Lay Your Hands on Me were but a few.
For the dreamers and screamers in the crowd last night, Jon Bon Jovi and company were Jersey’s most persuasive ambassadors of rock.
Bruce Springsteen at his peak might not have been able to sway them.