Bon Jovi's bad medicine
If there's any aging rocker who really should insist on staying Stuck in the 80s, it's gotta be Jon Bon Jovi.
During his show in Tampa on Sunday night, he won the audience over with hit after hit from the golden decade. But not before planting them firmly in their seats during his more recent work.
Give credit to Bon Jovi. What appreciation he couldn't earn through faux country songs, he solicited through butt wiggles and toothy grins. The guy knows how to work an audience.
The show finished up just before 11 p.m. Here are some quick observations.
HIT THE HIGHWAY: Opening the show with the title track from his new "Lost Highway" disc was an omen for the night. The first half of the show was littered with tunes from this rightly unappreciated album. Hard to believe that Bon Jovi has cranked out only 10 studio albums in 25 years, and this is the best they can do?
PARTY TIME, BATTALION STYLE: If beer sales at a Bon Jovi concert could be an consumer confidence indicator, we'll soon be out of our long economic depression. I felt like we were filming a Budweiser commercial tonight.
WHAT THE ?!?: Name one musical instrument that has no business in a Bon Jovi concert. If you said "violin," you're today's lucky winner. But there it was, played by a hottie that looked like she was picked out of the crowd for the honor. Still, I kept expecting the Dixie Chicks to walk out on stage.
FRIENDLY FANS: One thing you gotta love about a Bon Jovi show: There is no shortage of revved up female party-goers. It's the ultimate Ladies Night. From the one who kept offering Sean her drink to my cute, next-door neighbor who used her cell-phone to light up my notebook while I scribbled down these gems of wisdom.
JON NEEDS A VACATION: The rehearsed stage banter is starting to feel a little tired, Jon. Maybe what you need is 5 years off the concert circuit. Maybe restart the acting career. Just take time off and recharge the live performance batteries. Your fans will be waiting when you get back.
MARRY ME JON!: I lost count of how many "I (heart) Jon Bon Jovi" and "Mrs. Bon Jovi" shirts I saw in the ranks of female fans tonight. You get the feeling they're just happy to be breathing the same air molecules as their hero.
OLD SCHOOL: I was never a fan of "Runaway" -- until tonight. They ripped through it like it was 1983 all over again. That's what I call keeping the faith. Thanks, guys.
CHANGE OF PLANS: "Livin' on a Prayer" was slated to be the first encore, but it ended up being the first set finale tonight. "Dead or Alive" proved to be the final encore. An oddly sedate way to end things.
PICK UP THE TEMPO: "It's My Life" seemed like it was a beat too slow. In a way, that was the theme of the night. Come on, guys. It's an anthem! Don't play it like you're the opening act to a funeral.
PLAYING TO THE CROWD: Jon donned a Tampa Bay Storm jersey for the encores and said coach Tim Marcum and Bucs coach Jon Gruden were in the crowd. On NFL Draft Day? Impressive.
TAKE THAT BRUCE FANS: People thought I was insane for saying Bon Jovi was the ultimate East Coast rocker, over grampa Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was here last week and drew about 16,000. Bon Jovi -- a little more than 20,000. Glory days, yeah, they'll pass you by.
OK, EVEN I SANG ALONG: "Bad Medicine" is one of those tunes that your body forces you to participate in. I'm not ashamed to admit I gave Sean Daly a sweaty bear-hug when the band launched into it. (Just tape up those ribs, Sean. They'll heal in a few weeks.)
FINAL GRADE: A B-minus maybe, but only because they were happy to play their 80s hits. After all the hype, I just expected more. Maybe it's because the performance is so slick and rehearsed. Or maybe because it's nearing the end of the tour. It certainly can't help to be supporting an album that sounds nothing like their best work.
Still, a night of 80s rock with thousand of drunken fans is a nice way to end the weekend. Maybe that's the magic of Bon Jovi. All it takes for it to work is a microphone, a stage and a neverending supply of golden amber inspiration.