Saturday, August 2, 2003

Bon Jovi's Riverbend show slow, uneven

Concert review

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

"For the next 2 1/2 hours," snarled Jon Bon Jovi, "your (rear end) is mine."

That warning came at 8:25 p.m., in the beginning of his band Bon Jovi's concert at Riverbend Friday. At 10:20 the show was over.

Here's what the singer should have said: "We might play for just under two hours if I'm feeling up to it."

Something wasn't right. Jon didn't seem himself at different times during an otherwise fairly entertaining show. At the end of the set he muttered to the near-sellout crowd, "Thanks for your patience," only to return for an aborted, mistake-riddled encore.

He could have been ill, or there might have been technical difficulties he couldn't overcome. He didn't say. Whatever the problem, it wasn't enough to ruin it for the fans, who stood on their feet for most of the show. Only those in the front rows could probably sense his frustration, and who knows how many people caught him flub lyrics to "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars" and "Bad Medicine" in the encore.

The show's bigger problem was its boring first hour. The longtime pop-metal favorites have recently revamped the format of their performances, which now open with long "acoustic" sets.

Jon, guitarist Richie Sambora and bassist Hugh McDonald sat in chairs at the front of the stage. Sambora played a double-neck acoustic guitar, and Jon also played an acoustic and had a music stand in front of him. McDonald and keyboardist David Bryan went electric, and drummer Tico Torres pounded away.

The semi-acoustic arrangements worked for ballads like "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "I'll Be There for You" (featuring Sambora on lead vocals). But they shouldn't have slowed faster material like the show-opening cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" and "Livin' on a Prayer." (A man seated in the row behind this scribe agreed. "Terrible!" he yelled after "Livin' on a Prayer." "Sing it right! Don't sing that slow!")

The electric set was a complete turnaround - high energy all the way through, with plenty of favorites: "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Runaway," "It's My Life," "Keep the Faith," "Born to Be My Baby," "Lay Your Hands on Me," and others. It would have been nice to hear "Livin' on a Prayer" get the electric treatment, too.


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