domingo, 1 de agosto de 2010

52,000 Bon Jovi fans can't be wrong.

July 31, 2010

Such is the nearly universal appeal of Bon Jovi that even typically impassive food and drink vendors at Friday night's Soldier Field concert stopped to record songs on their iPhones. The band's last Chicago visit sold out three nights at United Center -- no mean feat in early 2008 with an economic crisis building steam. On Friday, at the first of two weekend shows, they hosted as many fans in one sold-out night.

New material including "We Weren't Born to Follow" emphasized triumph over adversity. Video screens projected the band alongside inspirational figures rendered in red and blue a la Shepard Fairey's famous portrait of Barack Obama. "You witnessed history here in Chicago," vocalist Jon Bon Jovi reminded the crowd. Even the most plaintive of the fresh cuts, "When We Were Beautiful," had an enormous, angelic chorus underpinning its wish to recover innocence lost.

But the truly massive singalongs happened when the band hauled out celebratory favorites including "You Give Love a Bad Name." The crowd erupted for "Bad Medicine," and then somehow got even louder when Detroit rogue Kid Rock joined the band onstage for a cover of "Old Time Rock and Roll." If Soldier Field had rafters overhead, they'd have been blown skyward by 50,000 raised voices. During the song, Jon Bon Jovi draped a fan's Blackhawks jersey across his shoulders.

Kid Rock charged the stage for his own opening set, interrupting a mass chorus of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Dressed in a checkered shirt and black hat pulled low, he lifted the crowd to its feet for his "Rock and Roll Jesus." He prowled the catwalk as the guitar lick from "Sweet Home Alabama" anchored "Summertime," but ran to a battered white piano to lead his 10-piece Twisted Brown Trucker band in a rendition of "Everyday People."

"Deep breaths, deep breaths," said Irish-born vocalist Keith Semple, taking in the sight as Soldier Field filled in during 7th Heaven's early set. The suburban Chicago rockers commemorated their 25th year by winning Bon Jovi's "SuperBAND Tonight" competition for local opening acts. Semple confidently led the crowd-friendly "whoa-oh" chant during heavy pop confection "Summer's Gonna Last Forever." "Better This Way" was familiar to listeners of Mix 101.9 FM.

Diane Arpino of Westmont has seen the band more than 50 times. "This is incredible for them," she said. Her friend Gina Gagliano from Downers Grove added, "There isn't a better band in Chicago to open for Bon Jovi."

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.

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