Bon Jovi has been riding their steel horse around the globe for more than 20 years. On Wednesday night they parked it at the Kohl Center and showed the audience exactly why they are still the gods of arena rock.
The nearly sold-out show was heavy on the classics. Bon Jovi seems to understand and appreciate that fans aren't buying concert tickets to hear the songs from their latest album, Have a Nice Day, which, though solid, just can't compare to their epic successes of the past.
The concert did start off with a new tune, the mostly forgettable "Last Man Standing." Although these new songs aren't incredible, they're catchy enough to keep the audience interested and enthusiastic. It didn't take long for the band to tear into the classic sing along "You Give Love a Bad Name." Jon Bon Jovi's voice is not the powerhouse it used to be, and he can't belt out power jams like he did back in the day, but he still sounds good. And whatever Jon lacks in singing capabilities, he makes up for with a whole lot of fist pumping, dancing and running back and forth across the stage. This man is the definition of high energy and sells even the lesser-known songs with ease.
The first half of the show featured six songs from Have a Nice Day. The best of these was the album's title track, a feel good, although formulaic, jam that sounds like an updated version of "It's My Life." Although the new stuff wasn't the highlight of the show, Jon Bon Jovi could sing the ABCs and still be wildly entertaining.
The band interspersed their new songs with essentials like "Runaway," "Sleep When I'm Dead" and "Born to Be My Baby," which is absolutely one of Bon Jovi's most perfect live songs. They really broke out the heavy hitters with a mid-show acoustic section that set thousands of lighters ablaze. Jon Bon Jovi and guitar virtuoso Richie Sambora shared the mic for a stunning rendition of the band's classic ballad of love and loss, "Always." This song is rarely done in concert, which made hearing it all the more special for everyone who awkwardly slow-danced to it at middle school dances.
The acoustic set also featured the tearjerker "I'll Be There For You" and "Blaze of Glory," during which Jon bravely took to a platform in the audience to sing what is surely the most famous song from the "Young Guns II" soundtrack.
There was not a moment during the two-hour show when the band didn't seem to put every ounce of energy into giving the audience members their money's worth. Hundreds of lucky students who bought specially reduced price tickets got a priceless amount of New Jersey rock for only 15 bucks. Although Jon didn't take much time out of the show to engage with the audience, he did thank everyone for finding time in the middle of the week to come see them, proving that he is not only the best looking man in music, but also the most polite.
By the end of the show, the entire band was dripping sweat and audience members who hadn't previously realized that Jon Bon Jovi is one of the sexiest men on the planet were fully aware of the fact. Though the band would be nothing without semi-creepy pianist David Brian, drummer Tico Torres and Heather Locklear's spouse Richie Sambora, Jon is the heart, soul and voice of Bon Jovi. The fact that he had to stop singing "Bad Medicine" mid-song and tear himself away from the writhing horde of women that had attached itself to his legs is a testament to the hypnotic power he has over women — and audiences in general.
The show was rounded out with "Raise Your Hands," which was enough to get even the most stubborn audience members out their chairs and dancing. This song was followed by the quintessential "Livin' on a Prayer."
It's likely that the audience would have torn apart the Kohl Center if the band had not returned for an encore. Luckily, they did two. Although he looked fairly dorky dressed up in a jersey from the indoor football team that he owns, Jon did do an inspired rendition of "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night," a mediocre song that comes to life in concert. The show ended with "Wanted Dead or Alive," in which Jon reminded the audience that he's seen a million faces, and he's rocked them all. After Wednesday's show, Bon Jovi definitely has a few more thousand faces to add to the total.