Live Review: Bon Jovi eases Detroit’s pain (Detroit, MI)
By Gary Graff (Daily Tribune)
On the day the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy, a couple of longtime musical friends helped to ease the pain - or at least let the 32,000-plus at Ford Field on July 18, forget about the issue awhile.
Bon Jovi and the J. Geils Band are certainly high on the list of the Motor City’s favorite sons of different geographic mothers. The Motor City was an early stronghold for the former since the New Jersey group’s 1983 single “Runaway” revved up a career that’s since sold more than 130 million albums worldwide, while the Geils crew has more than 40 years of love in these parts that’s equal to its home town of Boston.
Short of some combination of, say, Bob Seger and Kid Rock, it’s hard to think of a better pairing to buoy spirits on one of the city’s darkest days - and concert goers couldn’t help but be bolstered a bit more by sight of Jimmy Buffett’s stage being constructed for Saturday’s show at Comerica Park as they headed into Ford Field.
Neither group specifically addressed the news of the day on Thursday, but Detroit spirit was front and center thanks to Bon Jovi’s stage set, a massive recreation of the front hood of a 1959 Buick Electra 225 - “American metal,” as Jon Bon Jovi referred to it, but an image that likely meant more to his Detroit crowd than others around the world. The point Bon Jovi really drove home during its 2-hour-20-minute set, however, was the depth of its catalog and the impactful connection three decades of hits has made with its audience. The Ford Field crowd seemingly knew - and sang along to - every single word of the 22 songs the group played, with tracks such as “Keep the Faith” and the show-closing “Livin’ on a Prayer” perhaps resonating a bit deeper on Thursday.
Guitarist Richie Sambora’s widely publicized absence (due to unspecified personal reasons) was hardly noticed during the characteristically high-octane show with Phil X and Bobby Bandiera capably filling in. The show started on a moody, ambient tip with the U2-like “That’s What the Water Made Me” from the new “What About Now” album but quickly hit powerglide with anthems such as “You Give Love a Bad Name,”“Raise Your Hands,”“Born to Be My Baby,”“Lost Highway,”“It’s My Life” and the recent single “Because We Can.”
Surrounded by all manner of video screens, the sextet kept the greatest hits coming all night long, slowing down only occasionally - a mid-show couplet of “(You Want to) Make a Memory” and “Bed of Roses” - and lacing covers of the Motown staple “Dancing in the Streets” into “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” and Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” into “Bad Medicine,” which brought Bon Jovi onto the circular catwalk in front of the stage for the only time of the night.
And at the end Bon Jovi drew even more cheers by donning a Detroit Tigers jersey - in the home of the Lions, no less - with the number 83 on the back, an acknowledgement of a long and warm relationship that on Thursday showed no signs of ebbing.