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Concert Reviews:
Bon Jovi Fans Have A Nice Day -- And Night -- At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2008

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AUBURN HILLS -- The sellout crowd of 20,000 or so at the Palace on Wednesday night (Feb. 20) did not need a lunar eclipse to go a little crazy.

They had Bon Jovi.

The long-lived New Jersey rock group -- saluted for 10 previous Palace and DTE Energy Music Theatre sell-outs with a new banner hanging from the arena's rafters amidst the Pistons' championships -- kept everyone frenzied and on their feet throughout the two-hour, 15-minute show with an abundantly energetic, hits-heavy 23-song set. The party started with the title track from the group's latest album, 2007's "Lost Highway," and it was well over an hour before the pace slowed for a trio of ballads, two of which -- "(You Want To) Make a Memory" and "Bed of Roses" -- group leader Jon Bon Jovi sang up close and personal from a small stage at the center west side of the Palace floor.

What Bon Jovi does so well is a formula without being formulaic. The group, and particularly Bon Jovi himself, is an update of the same model mined by Garden State forebears such as Gary U.S. Bonds, Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny, mixing soulful spirit with rock 'n' roll exuberance and seaside bar energy -- just on a massive, arena-shaking scale, this time with state-of-the-art staging that had more moving parts than Chauncy Billups. Four of the seven video screens moved hither and yon above and behind the band, occasionally morphing into slatted, Venetian-blind style backdrops that made for arresting visuals without blocking the view of fans seated behind the band.

And the rear of the stage inclined at various angles, serving as both another screen for projections and also allowing Bon Jovi to get a bit closer to the fans in those sections.

All of that eye candy would have been empty rock 'n' roll calories, however, if Bon Jovi and company didn't have the musical goods that superseded them. But they surely did. Even with a half-dozen songs from "Lost Highway" -- whose Nashville influence could be heard on "Whole Lot of Leavin' " and the show-closing "I Love This Town" -- Bon Jovi's show was a veritable jukebox as the group, in tight dynamic form and expanded to seven with a fiddle player and extra guitarist, charged through three decades worth of hits such as "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Runaway," "Bad Medicine," "Born to Be My Baby," "It's My Life," "Who Says You Can't Go Home," "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." There were a few favorite album tracks as well -- "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," "Keep the Faith," "Raise Your Hands" -- and some deftly placed covers, with bits of Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street," the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and the Isley Brothers' "Shout" laced into Bon Jovi's originals.

Bon Jovi treated the show as a homecoming of sorts, too, noting that Detroit embraced the group even before its first album, when "Runaway" was included on an otherwise all-local sampler album by now-defunct radio station WLLZ-FM. He also spoke of running into Bob Seger smoking a cigarette on the loading dock at Tuesday night's (Feb. 19) Pistons game -- acknowledging the influence of Seger's "Turn the Page" on "Wanted Dead or Alive."

"And that's why I keep coming back to Detroit, Michigan," Bon Jovi, flashing his million-watt smile, said after the crowd sang an opening chorus of "Livin' on a Prayer." Clearly, they will keep showing up as long as he and his band want to continue to come play in these parts.

Hopefully Daughtry was taking notes. The group, fronted by "American Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry, opened the show with a surprisingly flat 40-minutes of material from its multi-platinum debut album, including the hits "It's Not Over," "Over You," "Crashed" and "Home." Daughtry, who complained of having a cold, opened the latter with a snippet of Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home," but, particularly in the wake of Bon Jovi's fusillade, the prime time TV hero is still on his way to achieving the same kind of status in the rock concert world.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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