Same old bad medicine and leather trousers as Bon Jovi turn up the heat

Thu, Jun 30, 2011, 01:00

THEY’RE A relic from the days of hair metal, and they haven’t changed their sound – or their leather trousers – in decades, so what is it about Bon Jovi that keeps the punters coming back for more of that bad medicine? Seems you don’t need giant claws or multiple costume changes to stay on top. You just need some good old-fashioned workingman’s rock’n’roll.

The Bon Jovi juggernaut rolled into town for the first of two nights at the RDS Arena. Last night’s gig was sold out – there are still tickets available for tonight if you want to catch a dose of the band’s past hits such as Livin’ On A Prayer, Bad Medicine, Wanted Dead or Alive and Blaze of Glory.

Bon Jovi may be flogging the same old rock sound since the 1980s, but it’s a formula that still works – at least on the live circuit. The band from New Jersey don’t have much in the way of gimmicks, but they are now the second-biggest pop act in financial terms, just behind U2 and just ahead of Elton John. They haven’t had a hit to equal their 20th century heyday, but that doesn’t matter to the fans – their latest Greatest Hits has notched up another worldwide hit.

As Jon Bon Jovi insists four songs in, his band are “not old – just older”, though they’re still susceptible to the same old pitfalls of the business. In April, guitarist Richie Sambora, still recovering from his breakup with his wife of 16 years, actress Heather Locklear, bowed out of the tour and checked into rehab, temporarily replaced by Canadian guitarist Philip Xenidis. Sambora’s all better now, and at the RDS he showed the form that has made him one of rock’s iconic guitarists. Drummer Tico Torres and keyboard player David Bryan were present and correct, with bassist Hugh McDonald and guitarist Bobby Bandiera completing the line-up.

After a warm-up set by Dublin band The Riptide Movement, joint winners of a competition to be Bon Jovi’s support act, the main band came on in cloudy but mild conditions, and proceeded to whip up their trademark storm. “Two nights and 1,000 songs to get through,” quipped Bon Jovi, wearing a red military-style jacket that made him look like a member of the most kickass salvation band around. You Give Love A Bad Name, Born to Be My Baby, It’s My Life and Blaze of Glorysaw him keep his promise to deliver hit after hit. As the crowd raised their arms aloft to the band’s all-American anthems, it became increasingly clear why these guys keep pulling the crowds in. They’re a walking, talking, singing, axe-wielding, gun-slinging slice of the American Dream, evoking a lost era of fast cars, fast women and even faster guitar solos.

Bad Medicine brings an added dose of nostalgia as the band break into a medley that includes Van Morrison’s Gloria, Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Awayand Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman. “I’m just getting warmed up!” warns Bon Jovi. Over the next couple of hours, the band turns up the heat and blows more than a few clouds away.

He may be unfairly described as the trailer trash Bruce Springsteen – he’s never been a critics’ favourite – but last night Bon Jovi proved he’s still one of rock’s heavyweights, even if he failed – once again – to knock this critic out.