domingo, 1 de agosto de 2010

Jon Bon Jovi's good time revival.

Nothing was insurmountable in Jon Bon Jovi's world Friday at the first show of a two-night stand at Soldier Field. No matter the odds, or how daunting "living in the broken home of hopes and dreams" became, the vocalist fell back on survival, deliverance and faith, leading his namesake band through a marathon 155-minute set steeped in the kind of wholesale inspirational optimism trumpeted by motivational office posters. The good-guy approach is paying dividends.

Bon Jovi remains a rare exception during a summer in which arena concert-ticket sales have plummeted. Immune to the empty seats that have greeted many big-name acts, the veteran group's current trek ranks as the current top-grossing North American tour. Bon Jovi's live appeal? Spirit-boosting nostalgia, catchy hooks, devotional pledges every woman longs to hear and a sex-symbol frontman that, together, functioned as comfort food.

Apparently recovered from a leg injury suffered onstage a few weeks ago, the 48-year-old singer refrained from running but engaged in exercises—air punches, jumping jacks, hip thrusts—to underscore the pop-rock climaxes. While his falsetto is gone, Bon Jovi's voice primarily sounded like it did in 1986, delighting a sold-out crowd that stood and shouted along to myriad hits.

Bon Jovi kept everything simple and abided by formula. Choruses clung to an assortment of wordless refrains, with "nah nah nah," "yeah yeah" and "hey hey" running a close second to the ubiquitous "whoa-oh." Several tunes seemed interchangeable. At their root, "Have a Nice Day," "It's My Life" and "Livin' on a Prayer" were the same song with different lyrics albeit parallel sentiments. No matter. Whether raising his arms, looking skyward or bowing his head, Bon Jovi sold the drama with strategic moves and a coy smile.

Yet despite Bon Jovi's thespian attempts at profound sincerity, the band's ballads mined a litany of lyrical clichés familiar to anyone who's ever composed a love note to a high-school sweetheart. "Work for the Working Man," a forced stab at sympathizing with blue-collar plight, proved equally hollow, especially considering some fans paid upwards of $1,700 for V.I.P. packages. And there was no escaping the irony as images of cultural pioneers such as John Lennon flashed onscreen next to generic slogans ("Act Now," "Rise," "Freedom") during "We Weren't Born to Follow," a by-the-book rallying cry that was anything but defiant or original.

The group fared better on upbeat older music ("Bad Medicine," "Runaway") that allowed drummer Tico Torres a chance to beef up the keyboard-heavy mix with rhythmic muscle. "Wanted Dead or Alive" rang true with an authenticity other material lacked, and a cover of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll," performed with opener Kid Rock, resonated with an invigorating soulfulness that temporarily smeared the band's polish.

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