Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Rocker draws from Ohio for inspiration
Who ever said Bon Jovi was only about New Jersey?
Shortly into a two-hour-plus show last night in Nationwide Arena, the band's 49-year-old frontman paused to explain what spawned his 2009 tune Work for the Working Man - whose sobering verses speak of lost employment, wiped-out pensions and waning hope.
Inspiration, he said, came from a 60 Minutes episode detailing the plight of Wilmington, Ohio, residents (a couple named John and Angela Pica in particular) after DHL Express moved its shipping operations and left thousands jobless. Extended applause followed after the song.
It was a moment of solemnity during an otherwise upbeat affair that served as a veritable time machine, taking a capacity crowd back through nearly three decades of familiar, fist-pumping favorites.
Right from the start, Jon Bon Jovi wasted no time in cueing up jukebox favorites, from You Give Love a Bad Name and I'll Be There for You to the synth-tinged Runaway that first propelled the working-class heroes to a life of fame.
Clad in leather pants and vest, the still-boyish singer had no trouble eliciting shrieks and call-and-response vocals from the rhinestone-clad female crowd - which could easily have doubled as a casting call for The Real Housewives of Columbus.
Suave without seeming too much like a Chippendales retiree, their midlife idol transcended his age - strutting like a rooster, ascending an impressive set of stairs made of rotating video screens whose stilts resembled something from the Terminator movies and making time to acknowledge folks in the cheap seats (including packed rows behind the stage with limited views).
At one point, he simply stood on a catwalk and allowed adoring fans to snap pictures. Only during the ballad Bed of Roses did his slow-motion, Romeo-style shtick veer into cheesy territory (big surprise: the ladies didn't mind.)
Newer hits such as It's My Life and Have a Nice Day - which share plenty of pulsating hallmarks to the band's early fare - blended well in the mix, which also included a medley of the Doors' Roadhouse Blues and Bob Seger's Old Time Rock 'n' Roll sandwiched between 1988's Bad Medicine.
The only thing detracting from the party was the notable absence of guitarist Richie Sambora, whose April re-admission to rehab left the group scrambling for a replacement (a Canadian named Phil Xenidis filled the spot adequately, if not quietly).
There was no mention of his nonattendance an audience member tossed onstage a rag doll that resembled Sambora during the concert's close.
Bon Jovi picked up the tiny replica, trying momentarily to get it to strum his guitar.
"I'll do it myself," he mumbled to the audience's cheers before launching into Wanted Dead or Alive, the second of a three-song encore that closed with Living on a Prayer - the group's signature hit to perseverance and pride, even to those who aren't from Jersey.
And here are a few pictures...