By Michael Dwyer (The Sydney Morning Herald)
How much Vaseline for Jon Bon Jovi’s teeth? That was one of few statistics left to the imagination as the 96th show of his ten-month tour to 2 million people in 55 countries flew its 1,800 road cases into Melbourne.
Word is there are 181,248 pixels on just one of those 102 video panels. But these first 50,000 Aussie fans were blinded more by charisma than science.
Fifty-one but looking 38, Bon Jovi was every inch the all-American high school spunkrat in his tight jeans and half-zipped stars and stripes. His pearly whites sparked a stadium-wide explosion as he made a delayed entry to the first meaty, macho, denim-jacketed riff from his latest #1 album.
Though wounded by the April departure of guitarist Richie Sambora, the band was hardly limping in terms of musical muscle or bonhomie. Beaming old boys Tico Torres (drums) and poodle-haired keys man David Bryan were present and solid.
Fill-in guitar hero Phil X got almost as much giant screen time. Which was weird, because those two less photogenic guys on bass and guitar have served longer and barely scored a solitary pixel all night.
Make no mistake, style and presentation count big time at this end of the rock’n’roll highway and nothing says that more clearly than a stage made of a massive inflatable 1959 Buick.
Dude, really. The set was a 35-metre-wide car with flashing headlights and morphing windscreen and, for much of the show, with moving scenery from the great American road trip that Bon Jovi’s songs so rousingly describe with wind in their hair and one fist permanently raised through the sunroof.
It’s the song of defiance hurled into the storm of everyday heartbreak that makes this band tick. Raise Your Hands, It’s My Life and Because We Can barrelled into We Weren’t Born to Follow and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead — the latter with a smattering of Stones, Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry thrown in to further please a besotted crowd.
With Torres whipping up a funkier beat and Bryan howling an extended organ solo, Keep the Faith was one of few to stray from the formula of 4/4 fist-pumpers slashed with palpitating guitar solos. But if it were possible to write a formula for a solid gold and fail-safe full-stadium showstopper, it would sound a whole lot like Livin’ on a Prayer.