Monday, March 20, 2017
Bon Jovi's evolution continues with
'This House Is Not for Sale' album and tour
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Two things emerged from Bon Jovi's marathon concert at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday night:
One is that as a line in a song from the band's new, post-Richie Sambora album "This House Is Not for Sale'' notes, Jon Bon Jovi's voice really is shot. Not that it matters to everyone. As one fan noted - loudly and enthusiastically, but purely for reasons that I'm sure were only in the interest of safeguarding his health - she was willing to spend hours keeping a clinical eye on the seat of his leather pants. Although to be honest, she did express the sentiment a bit more colorfully than that.
The second was just as obvious: The theme for a post-Sambora Bon Jovi is "we don't need you.'' Although to be honest, the feeling was a bit more colorful than that.
Sambora ended his strained relationship with his former band mates ended when he walked off the tour in 2013, not long after playing The Q. In a pre-concert interview, drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan were careful to avoid laying criticism on their ex-band mate, noting only that he'd decided he was ready to go it alone and more power to him.
Bon Jovi, who was not part of that conference call interview, hasn't said much other than Sambora just decided "not to show up for work'' and left the band.
And he didn't say anything specific Sunday night . . . except to go on and on about how "This House'' is a band album, one made with his brothers in the group, all part of a house NOT divided and all of whom were committed to the group and the family they have become in the three-plus decades since "Runaway.''
That's good and all, but the fact is the band needs Sambora. His replacement, Phil X, is an outstanding guitarist with a nonpareil reputation as a session man. But there's just some flash missing . . . or so it seems. It wasn't a lack of effort, nor was it an absence of talent; that was clear during a blistering solo in "Keep the Faith.''
Maybe it just seemed something was missing because Bon Jovi's powerful raspy voice has become Bon Jovi's not-so-powerful almost whispery voice - not a good thing for a man who is known as the creator of the arena rock anthem. Rather than rich and full, Bon Jovi's vocals seemed almost hushed and clipped, with a tendency to strain and stray from the key when he sustains a note.
It makes me wonder if the same was true when I reviewed the 2013 show, and I just failed to notice it because Sambora, who has a stage presence almost as grandiose as Bon Jovi's, was able to offer a musical misdirection, like some ax-shredding magician.
That being said, Bon Jovi remains one of the most entertaining and energetic frontmen around. Now 55, he moves with the spryness of a man half his age - much to the delight of my very observant friend and others like her.
And he does own a stage. For 21/2 hours, Bon Jovi and his band rolled through cuts from a 13-studio-album discography that began with the band's self-titled 1984 LP to the newest release.
Some of the most iconic songs in rock 'n' roll rang off the rafters in The Q: "You Give Love a Bad Name,'' "Whole Lotta Leavin','' "It's My Life'' and - suitably arriving as encores, "Wanted, Dead or Alive'' and "Livin' on a Prayer.''
Don't get the impression that the new stuff should be cast aside, though. The title cut, "Knockout,'' "Rollercoaster,'' the hopeful "New Years Day,'' "God Bless This Mess'' (which pretty much is a statement of where the band is today) and especially the nostalgic "Scars on This Guitar'' are signs that the post-Sambora Bon Jovi will be just fine. It's not arena rock anymore, but that's OK.
Everybody's gotta grow up, even if we don't want to.
Akron's Ohio Weather Band won a contest to open the show, and performed a short but interesting four-song set. Lead singer and guitarist Corey King has a solid voice that sounds a bit like Ed Sheeran, but with more oomph. Definitely a band to watch.