Live Review: Bon Jovi brings long running, crowd pleasing tour to arena

By L. Kent Wolgamott (Lincoln Journal Star)

Bon Jovi began its “Because We Can” tour in March. It’s got the show down to a crowd-pleasing art form.

That was evident from “That’s What the Water Made Me,” the opening song of the band’s 2-hour, 20-minute Pinnacle Bank Arena concert, and it continued through “Always,” the unplanned final song.

Following the standard closer, “Living on a Prayer” — with Jon Bon Jovi saying “Lincoln, Nebraska, for me, sing,” then holding his mic stand aloft — the band moved to the front of the stage to take what appeared to be its final bows.

But the rapturous reception from the crowd of 11,052 prompted another number.

“We’re going to reach for this one,” Bon Jovi said. “Hope you know this; it’s probably the biggest song I’ve ever written.”

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Photo by Anna Reed

It was clear “Always” wasn’t a tour staple, but spontaneity is what sets the Bon Jovi tour apart from most pre-programmed arena shows.

To be sure, the set list is nearly the same each night, but the band performs without the usual video screens and tightly programmed effects that require the same songs in the same order.

That lets it swap songs around, omit some and include others — keeping the show fresh for both the performers and the audience. It works perfectly with the best light and stage show yet at Pinnacle, using rising towers behind the band and moving lights to great effect.

The highlight of the night came midway through when Bon Jovi stood at end of a runway down the center of the arena and started a four-song acoustic set with “Amen,” a gorgeous number from the band’s latest album.

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Photo by Anna Reed

Then came “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night,” “Diamond Ring,” another new song and “(You Want to) Make a Memory.”

That segment, in which he was joined by the core band members on acoustic instruments, showcased some very good songs and Bon Jovi’s fine voice.

The big fun of the evening came on the two pre-encore closers — “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” during which Bon Jovi turned into a Rolling Stones cover band, doing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Start Me Up,” complete with Jon Bon Jovi doing a wicked Mick Jagger imitation and “Bad Medicine” that somehow turned into a rousing version of “Shout.”

Sunday’s show was a bit shorter than the two hours and 40 minutes Bon Jovi has been averaging on the tour. But it nonetheless had to have been one of its better efforts.