On Bruce Springsteen's last visit to Consol Energy Center, the 63-year-old rocker, behaving like a grunge kid, jumped into the crowd from the center walkway and body surfed his way back to the stage.
Jon Bon Jovi has been known to take a few cues from The Boss, and he had his own walkway, but he wasn't about to do THAT. Not only would it wreak havoc on his hair, his largely female following, judging from the woman rubbing his leg, may not have let him back out in one piece. The frontman -- hitting the stage in what looked like a Captain America outfit -- maintained a safer distance and kept the sweat quotient down over a two-plus-hour Thursday night at Consol.
For whatever reason, they say it's intentional, Bon Jovi is doing things backward on this tour, playing shows prior to the release of its new album, "What About Now." That meant an infusion of new songs, most of which sounded like the soundtrack to a motivational book that could have been called "What About Now" or, perhaps, the title of the first single, "Because We Can."
The title track and the single "Army of One" (with a bit of Kings of Leon in the vocal) were all formula Bon Jovi anthems that pounded home the message of "this world is cracked and crazy," but we can all make it, because we can, and let's do it now. As a change of pace, "Amen" was as gentle as a Leonard Cohen ballad, and the hard-rocking "That's What the Water Made Me" grabbed the angular riff from David Bowie's "Heroes," not a bad song to emulate. The title, he said, referred to the [hard time] they get for being from Jersey, not New York.
"I hope you liked it," he said humbly after a couple of the new ones.
Bon Jovi spared the expense on pyro and put it into a stunning set created by Moment Factory, which designed Madonna's lavish tour and also made it rain during fun.'s recent set at the Grammys. Behind the band were giant hexagon-shaped video pillars that moved like a living organism. They came and went quite spectacularly and likely weren't a big hit with the people sitting behind the stage.
New songs aside, there were 20-some spots open for greatest hits and other favorites from the band's remarkable 30-year run, starting with the breakout '86 hit "You Give Love a Bad Name." The "Slippery When Wet" album, a clear favorite in the catalog, also served the band with its steel-horse cowboy classic "Wanted Dead or Alive" and the rousing showstopper "Livin' on a Prayer." If you like that one, there's no way you don't like the similar "It's My Life," an early entry in the set.
From the hair metal heyday of the '80s, the fans also got "Bad Medicine" (with Terrible Towel twirl), "Born to Be My Baby," endless power ballad "I'll Be There for You" and the band's beloved maiden single "Runaway" (with a funny shout-out to WDVE).
Those unlikely few who may have jumped on board during the country-rock tangent, "Lost Highway," were treated to that title track and "Whole Lot of Leavin'," during which Jon Bon Jovi added the line "We ain't Justin Bieber anymore." "We Got it Goin' On" was reimagined with a crushing Metallica riff.
At nearly 51, Bon Jovi hasn't lost much in the looks or vocal department, and his longtime mates guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres, with two sidemen, are a seamless unit, with occasional punch.
Mr. Sambora doesn't get a lot of points for innovation, but he stepped forth with many a screaming solo, like the killer one on the extended soul banger "Keep the Faith," and drove the band hard during the steamrolling encore set, complete with "Have a Nice Day" and "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night."
The hair-band roots and derivative songs have a lot to do with Bon Jovi not winning the respect of critics, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Super Bowl halftime people, etc. But put the boys in a packed arena filled with adoring fans and they know how to show them a spirited and tuneful good time.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com or 412-263-2576. First Published February 22, 2013 5:00 AM