The New York Times- July 30, 2001
Keeping the July Fourth Spirit Rolling
Jon Bon Jovi in concert at Giants Stadium on Friday night.
Bon Jovi's unsurprisingly triumphant
appearance Friday night at Giants Stadium was the best Fourth of July
celebration ever to take place almost in August. Under a hazy half moon and a
blanket of artificial stars, New Jersey's most all-American band gave the
cheering crowd plenty of corn and apple pie along with the fireworks obligatory
at every arena rock show.
This was music from a town called Hope, or New Hope at least, which is almost in New Jersey, given Bon Jovi's allegiance to the heartland within dreaming distance of the Empire State Building, a model of which formed the centerpiece of its stage set. In a two-hour show paced as energetically as a one-minute car commercial, Jon Bon Jovi led his band of loyal ruffians through endless testaments to keeping the faith, refusing to surrender, sacrificing for love, speaking the truth and getting wild, but not so wild that any of the aforementioned virtuous stances would be compromised.
Rarely, perhaps never, has rock been so heartwarming. Riche Sambora, the band's suave lead guitarist, even dedicated his solo vocal turn to his mother. Mr. Bon Jovi himself, with his ebullient dance moves and blond ambition, recalled Kevin Bacon in "Footloose," saving the world for the healthy sexuality and reasonable aspirations anthem rock represents.
There can be trouble in Bon Jovi's world, because heroes must fight to make themselves meaningful. But there is no disappointment. The darkness that lends gravity to the songs of New Jersey's other bard, Bruce Springsteen, didn't even make it to the edge of this show. Romantic pain was lightened by a frolicsome beat and amusing lyrics, as in the raucous "Bad Medicine," and life crises were clad in Western garb and made epic, as in the soaring "Blaze of Glory" and the solemnly grand "Wanted Dead or Alive."
The band's genius lies in its rejection of the belief that rock is the art of outcasts, freeing the hunger and rage that society fights to suppress. Bon Jovi's music releases something else: conventional desire. Happy to get halfway toward their goals, religious enough to resort to prayer in difficult moments and pledged to a monogamous vision of romance, the characters in Bon Jovi songs could be in an Andy Hardy film or a Stephen Foster ballad.
Relentlessly singable melodies reinforce the message that longing brings people together rather than driving them apart. Musical connections surfaced constantly in Friday's hit-packed show. "Bed of Roses" shared a soaring climax with "Blaze of Glory," while the recent hit, "It's My Life," was not only a lyrical sequel to 1986's "Livin' on a Prayer," but also echoed the earlier song in its verse-chorus structure.
These repetitions are powerful because they make singing along easier and lodge Bon Jovi's songs in listeners' memory banks, alongside "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The cheerily forceful drummer, Tico Torres, and the boogie-woogie-loving keyboardist, David Bryan, made sure every song was tightly paced. Mr. Sambora's guitar work was flashy in the most sensible way, his fret-climbing explosions never distracting from the songs' essential neatness.
Most important, of course, was Mr. Bon Jovi himself, the former recording studio janitor whose rise has inspired countless slightly bad boys to shag their hair and practice vocal scales in the shower. Yes, he wore leather pants at Giants Stadium, but so did some of the middle-age dads watching in the audience with their preteenagers.
Mr. Bon Jovi reached out to those doppelgangers, encouraging them to shout and cry, preferably within sight of the television cameras circling the stadium. After all, this was an all-American night, and therefore it would be televised. The show was broadcast last night on VH1 and will certainly be repeated, keeping the Bon Jovi fantasy alive in family rooms everywhere.