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Review: Bon Jovi PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh 4/5/17

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bon Jovi cuts PPG Paints Arena show short with sore throat


Bon Jovi, the band, was sounding a little off at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night, and then Jon Bon Jovi put his finger on it.

He was almost halfway there, after doing “Runaway,” when he revealed that he’s had a cold since Saturday night: “I think I'm singing like s--- tonight, and I apologize… but I'm gonna keep pushin’ on and if you stick it out with me, I'll stick it out with you.”

He was right to come clean. You could hear the scratchiness in his throat, and the sound mix, with the bass amped up like King Kong stomping through Uptown, wasn't doing him any favors. He dropped down to some raspy whispers over the verses and lots of cringe-worthy flat notes on the choruses.
  
This was Bon Jovi’s first trip to town with the full band since 2013. Before that, he sold out consecutive nights at the arena in 2010. This time, the show hit Groupon, and on Tuesday, the Steelers, who were not the promoters, sent out an offer to season ticket holders for $10 concert tickets.

What went wrong? Was it backlash for supporting Hillary Clinton in October? Was it the awkward intrusion into people's living rooms in that DirectTV commercial? Something cooled off the fanbase on this visit.

It’s certainly not a lack of radio play, and the band even had a No. 1 album last year with “This House is Not for Sale.” The title track was the dramatic show opener, played behind a curtain with projected video of Pittsburgh roads leading right to PPG Paints Arena. 

It was a promising start, and seemed enough like a regular Bon Jovi party in the Burgh, because Bon Jovi hits are pretty uncomplicated and all break into big choruses for everyone to sing along. The crowd helped out, in more ways than one.

“This is the day when I need a karaoke singer,” he said. “Which one of you guys in a bar band knows all the words to Bon Jovi songs?”

Little does he know that we’ve had not one but two cover bands in this town called Bon Journey. Maybe those singers were even there. He didn't get one of those guys, but he did get Brad Evanovich, a volunteer from the crowd, to come up and do a spirited job on “Born to Be My Baby.”

He also had some subs on guitar, with Phil X and John Shanks ably filling the shoes of sidekick Richie Sambora, who bailed in the middle of the 2013 tour after 30 years.

Bon Jovi, still looking youthful at 55 in a biker jacket and black jeans, pushed his way through his a run of hits including “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Bad Medicine,” “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” and “It’s My Life.”

But he probably needed more Brad. He skipped several songs in the usual setlist to jump ahead to “Bad Medicine” and then after 90 minutes of the expected two-and-a-half hour show, he threw in the towel.

“This is going to have to be the last one,” he declared, leading the band into signature hit “Livin’ on a Prayer,” with partial vocals from Phil X and the fans, who at that point, were probably a lot happier if they got the Groupon or the Steelers deal. 

“I want to thank you for your kindness,” he said. And they truly were kind. “I'm sorry we couldn't do the full show tonight. God bless you all.”

And with that, he was off for some good medicine, bad medicine, whatever he needed. The next show is Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

The winner of a contest to open for Bon Jovi here was the Interlochen Singer Songwriters from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, who were nothing like Bon Jovi stylistically, playing shrill singer-songwriter piano pop. They gave it a valiant effort, for amateurs, but were taking a slot that could have been filled by any number of really good Pittsburgh bands.

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I am and always have been a Bon Jovi fan. This blog is just my obsession taken a step further, my imagination in high gear if you will. I love to read and decided to see what would happen when I took that love of the written word and ramped it up a bit.

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