By MIKE CHAIKEN
There are some rockers who shift from being the latest sales chart idols- sometimes dismissed by the critics— to becoming American rock and roll institutions that are revered as icons.
Aerosmith and Kiss are two examples of these “institutions” that still had/have vital careers decades after they arrived on the scene and influence the latest generations of rockers.
Of the many acts that arose in the ‘80s, Bon Jovi is one of the few acts to survive and now can be called a “rock and roll institution.” Despite their initial association with the flock of hair metal bands in the mid to late 1980s, Bon Jovi now are a genre unto themselves.
On Saturday, May 5— on the very evening their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was cablecast on HBO— Bon Jovi supremely demonstrated at a sold-out Mohegan Sun Arena why they are one of America’s best rock and roll bands.
Sometimes a band of Bon Jovi’s longevity will dutifully shift into lucky oldies act mode. They will milk their few hits and mine nostalgia rather than art.
At the Sun, Bon Jovi proved they still possess a vibrant voice in rock roll and they still have confidence in the present and future and don’t need to rely alone on the crutch of the past.
Bon Jovi’s confidence in who are today was evidenced by the opening track in their two hours plus set—- “This House Is Not For Sale” from the recent album of the same name.
Rather than go the easy route of playing a beloved classic track to grab the audience’s attention, “This House…” proclaimed that Bon Jovi still wants to and still does matter.
The track also demonstrated, with its touch of Americana and a nod to country music—that Bon Jovi has successfully transitioned from hair band to something more organic and genuine. “God Bless This Mess,” another track from “This House…” also illustrated this more mature and confident Bon Jovi.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, Bon Jovi didn’t disappoint their fans—who are clearly near and dear to their hearts— by sacrificing the past to promote today. Their big hits were all there— “Living on a Prayer,” “Bad Medicine,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and more. And the musical favorite sons got audience members dancing, singing, and pumping their fists.
A highlight of the evening was “Bed of Roses” from their first foray beyond “hair band” territory, “Keeping the Faith.” For this track, singer Jon Bon Jovi waded into the audience and performed on a tiny stage an arm’s length from fans. The proximity to the fans was a fun touch. More importantly, Jon Bon Jovi filled the song with passion that could only be gained from a life well lived and well loved.
The overall song selection of the evening harkens back to my initial observation that Bon Jovi has long passed from flavor of the month to rock and roll institution. Their set list was more about building a mood and a musical story through their art rather than simply biding time between the hits.
Rock and roll careers begin with a single. Institutions grow with the determination to move forward.
Bon Jovi has moved forward and subsequently has endured.
Opening for Bon Jovi was Connecticut’s own—and “American Idol” winner—Nick Fradiani.
Fradiani, like Bon Jovi, carries a great deal of passion into his music. Like Bon Jovi, circa 2018, Fradiani mines Americana and acoustic sources for his music. Although he arrived on the scene by winning “American Idol,” manufacturing slick pop top 40 songs seems far from his priority. His music was about the art of strong songwriting and captivating performances.
I give Bon Jovi at the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 5 four out of four stars.