Plagued with sound problems, Jon Bon Jovi brings out the showman but also shows moments of great musical restraint.
Even without pyrotechnics, Jon Bon Jovi and his five-piece band kept the audience happy in the first of two shows at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
By: Nick Krewen Special to the Star, Published on Mon Feb 18 2013
For the first of two shows at the Air Canada Centre, Jon Bon Jovi was the paragon of restraint.
This may not seem like a big deal to the casual Bon Jovi observer, but considering that New Jersey’s other favourite rock ’n roll son has embraced the concept of bombast as if it were a second skin, this is no small transition.
For example, in any of the band’s dozen earlier global jaunts, Sunday night’s opening number would have begun with explosions, fireworks, smoke bombs, a retina-blinding light show and an animated lead singer running all over the stage, goading his fans to embrace the promised elation and adrenalin of the music that was pumping through the speakers.
And then it would have gone really over-the-top.
Not so at the ACC, where — yes — “You Give Love A Bad Name” — the song that really got the whole Bon Jovi juggernaut rolling way back in 1986 — was trotted out to kick off the two-and-a-half hour concert.
Despite employing a fairly impressive light show — sweeping spotlights that sank from the ceiling and a vertical Tetris of video pillars that slammed together and pulled apart in imaginative configurations — a muddy sound mix and the sense that Bon Jovi himself was singing the song out of a sense of duty rather than conviction combined for a limp start.
A brief bowlegged hop to the microphone aside, the seemingly ageless 50-year-old then parked himself in front of the microphone for a healthy portion of the show, even though a semi-circular catwalk that divided the floor-dwellers — willing to spend $1,500 to watch him up close — from those who could only afford $600, beckoned.
Following rather routine renditions of “Lost Highway” and “Whole Lot of Leavin’”, Bon Jovi’s demeanour seemed to change with the fourth song, the title track from the band’s forthcoming album, a catchy crowd pleaser in the vein of “Keep The Faith.”
Fans were clapping along, the sound mix had improved to the point where the band didn’t sound so cavernous (although the sound never reached stellar clarity during the show’s louder moments) and the first of seven new songs left a favourable impression with the 20,000 or so ACC attendees.
It took awhile for Bon Jovi the showman to reappear, and then it was only briefly: “We Got It Goin’ On” found him finally abandoning centre stage to entertain those at the back and move around a bit. The next number, “Keep The Faith,” may have had its bass-driven melody again buried in poor sound, but a bit of Bon Jovi dancing, an instrumental workout that included a molten lead solo from guitarist Richie Sambora and an exuberant organ solo by keyboardist Dave Bryan, transformed it into a refreshing highlight.
And that was how the pyro-free, 26-song setlist went all night: some respectful and tolerant listens by the audience to new material from the upcoming What About Now, and then the full-fledged sing-a-long to classics like “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Bad Medicine” that elevated the show to a different level of enthusiasm.
If you ask anyone who attended the show, they’ll probably remember moments such as the a cappella introduction of “Livin’ On A Prayer” and the entire arena serenading the band with the first verse of the song, rather than the debut of the What About Now tunes “The Fighter” or “Amen.”
In 30 years, Bon Jovi and his five-piece band have finally taught themselves a new trick: how to become discerning.
In their case, it’s not a bad lesson to learn.