BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
More than three decades after their debut as one of the most successful hair bands of the 80’s, Bon Jovi arrived at the HP Pavilion in San Jose on Wednesday night to a near sold out crowd to re-stake their claim as one of America’s best rock bands.
Touring in support of the recently released “This House Is Not For Sale,” the bands first album of original material since the departure of lead guitarist Richie Sambora after 30 years, the group showed no signs of slowing down or resting on their laurels. The new material is a solid effort, and even the inclusion of a seemingly excessive seven tracks from it did little to derail the quality of the performance or dim the crowds enthusiastic response to a group that has sold close to 150 million records worldwide.
Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi has aged quite nicely since the original heyday of the band during the dawn of the MTV era. Celebrating his 55th birthday just hours after the show concluded, he continues to retain his matinee looks that have led to him being included on both People Magaine’s list of “50 Most Beautiful People In The World” and their proclamation in 2000 of him being the “Sexiest Rock Star” while fronting the band that bears his name. Additionally, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the crowd that felt he had lost anything vocally.
Opening their set with both the title track of the new album along with “Knockout,” another strong tune, the group didn’t waste too much time before whipping out “You Give Love a Bad Name,” one of their biggest hits from 1986’s “Slippery When Wet.” Phjil Xenidis, better know as “Phil X,” now a permanent member, was a stellar replacement for Sambora throughout the evening. Many of those in the audience who had seen Bon Jovi live previously claimed that they couldn’t detect any noticeable difference and there were no complaints to be heard.
Settling into a comfortable pattern of blending the newest songs in the setlist sandwiched between more familiar favorites, the best New Jersey band this side of Springsteen’s continued taking the crowd on a journey throughout their 34 year old catalog. A bevy of uplifting cuts during the middle of the show including “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” featuring the lively keyboards of David Bryan, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and the anthemic “It’s My Life” had most of the audience both very much engaged and on their feet for the better part of the evening.
The power of original drummer Tico Torres began to shine more intensely as the show progressed. Bon Jovi classics such as “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “Born to Be My Baby” showed that he was still very much in his prime, and both “Bad Medicine” and “Keep the Faith” further demonstrated his importance as the band closed out their regular set on a series of high notes.
Returning to the stage after a brief encore break, Bon Jovi seemed truly sincere as he thanked the crowd for their support over the years in addition to their enthusiasm on this evening. Both “Living With the Ghost” and “Because We Can” quickly returned the energy to the hall, but two hours in, the band had still managed to save it’s best for last.
Leaving no doubt that the 24 song set would have few omissions in spite of the heavy concentration on new material, the closing salvo of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” had the arena lit up like a Christmas tree as many engaged the flashlights on their smartphones, the 2017 equivalent of lighters from the groups early days. As the evening came to a close, everyone seemed happy, and no one got burned.
After taking a couple days to recover, Bon Jovi heads south and returns to the stage with performances in Phoenix on Saturday and San Diego on Sunday, before arriving at The Forum in Los Angeles next Wednesday March 8th.