Bon Jovi's got it going on at Mohegan Sun
Mashantucket - Oh, it's so quaint, all those stories about the music industry being in trouble.
Because here's Bon Jovi - dismissed as a disposable hair band, lo, those 25-some years ago when they began - hitting No. 1 with their latest album and still working it as one of the top concerts acts out there.
And we mean working it.
Their sold-out concert Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena (with a second show Saturday) was a blast of rock 'n' roll exhilaration, fueled by musicians and music that have flourished and matured since it all began in 1983.
It's amazing to see the positively Pavlovian effect that Bon Jovi's muscular blue-collar anthems have on audiences. Raise your hands! Belt out those full-throttle choruses - why, yes, Jon and Richie, it IS my life, dammit!
Now, let's not be naive. A big part of the appeal is frontman Jon Bon Jovi's pin-up image. He's 48 now and still, like, totally dreamy (just ask the shrieking women in the Mohegan Sun crowd). Like Bruce Springsteen, he's got that ageless rock-star thing going on; is there something in the Jersey water?
He sure knows how to play that up. Poor boy forgot to button up his shirts - on two different shirts - much past his navel. He gave the occasional direct, soulful stare into the camera so that, when his image was projected on the giant video screens, it seemed as though he was making eye contact with everyone in the arena.
But all that and bouncing-and-behaving hair will only get you so far. He rasps and croons with a robust voice, and he works a room like few other frontman, firing up the crowd like the world's most inspirational coach.
And he's got that music. The Bon Jovi repertoire's strength - and the band's strength in concert - lays in how the music has morphed over the years while not straying disastrously far from that original attitude and bedrock sound. The group isn't merely revisiting the past in concert, either. It has produced new hits, particularly since 2002's "Bounce," that rank, power-wise, with the old.
They peppered the set with a few numbers from their latest CD, "The Circle," which sounded, oddly enough, better live than they do on the record, especially "Superman Tonight" and "When We Were Beautiful."
But they didn't stint on the earlier stuff, and they weren't shy about playing them full-out.
"Uh-oh, it's 1984 again," Bon Jovi said, as the band burst into their first hit, the chugging "Runaway."
Some surprises popped up, too. Bon Jovi and lead guitarist Richie Sambora's harmonies blended gorgeously on the ballad "Never Say Goodbye," which they performed in response to a request from a fan in the crowd from Italy.
The musicians wove The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" into the middle of "Bad Medicine."
When the four band members - Bon Jovi, Sambora, underrated keyboardist David Bryan, and Tico Torres, who attacks those drums - strolled to the outer circle of the stage to do an acoustic segment, they threw into the mix a version of The Who's "Squeeze Box," with Bryan playing the accordion.
The production kept the focus squarely on the band, with the only real technical wizardry coming in the form of video screens that separated into various pieces and then reassembled in different configurations.
At one point, some of those screens at the back of the stage turned sideways. Those screens created steps for Bon Jovi to climb so he could belt out "We Got It Going On" directly to the fans sitting in the upper tier behind the stage, as if to show that, by god, that title is no idle boast from this band.
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