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Concert Reviews:
Bon Jovi bids a fond, ferocious farewell to Joe Louis Arena
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- If Hockeytown needed a little spiritual uplift the day after the Red Wings were eliminated from post-season play for the first time in 25 years, Bon Jovi was happy to provide it.

The New Jersey group, a Detroit favorite since the early 80s release of its first single, "Runaway," has a new album to support -- "This House Is Not For Sale" -- and did a good job of that Wednesday night, March 29, at Joe Louis Arena. But a good chunk of two-and-a-half-hour show was dedicated to celebrating both the band's history with the city and also in the soon-to-be-closed arena, where it first played in 1985.

"One more time at the Joe!" Bon Jovi told the sold-out crowd of about 17,000 before "Wanted Dead Or Alive" during the encore. "History has a funny way of moving on. Buildings come and go, but memories always stay, right? Champions were made in this building...We all know what happened inside these walls. I'm proud to have just been a little bit of it and to be here to help celebrate the Joe."

Bon Jovi made its final memory at the Joe a good one, with a rocking 25-song set that offered a few special moments for the occasion -- "Runaway" back into the set for a rare performance and a slice of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock And Roll" in the middle of a lusty "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." Bon Jovi also dedicated "Wanted Dead Or Alive" to Seger, explaining that he was inspired to write it after hearing the Detroit icon's "Turn The Page" during a mid-80s tour bus ride.

Wednesday's show had a different look than Bon Jovi's previous Joe Louis stops -- the frontman's tastefully gray hair not the least of it. There were no catwalks above the stage this time and only minimal visual props. Instead the septet played on a clean, open stage that allowed for 360-degree seating, but with video screens only on the side and rear so that the bulk of the audience had to focus on the real-time performance. The flash came from a flexible, moving light rig that provided different looks for every song, as well as scrims that hung behind the band for videos during a handful of new songs.

Bon Jovi, the man, was his usual energetic self with plenty of moves like (Mick) Jagger this time out, but the music was the real focus on Wednesday The setlist that was notably (and blessedly) devoid of ballads save for the new album's "Scars On This Guitar." Bon Jovi and company kept things decidedly uptempo, from the Jersey shore soul of "This House Is Not For Sale" and "Born To Be My Baby" to the grinding rock of "We Got It Goin' On," the 80s metal feel of "Raise Your Hands," the funky "Keep The Faith" and the buoyant Americana of "Lost Highway" and "Who Says You Can't Go Home." And then there were the bulletproof anthems, a litany of inclusions such as "You Give Love A Bad Name," "It's My Life," "Lay Your Hands On Me," "Have a Nice Day," "Bad Medicine" and, of course, the show-closing "Livin' On A Prayer."

The night's only miscue was a momentum-killing mid-show trio of three new songs -- "God Bless This Mess," "Scars On This Guitar" and "New Year's Day" -- accompanied by long stories from Bon Jovi, although the group deftly picked things back up with the run of hits that followed.

It wasn't necessarily an acceptable substitute for another Stanley Cup playoff run, but Bon Jovi gave the faithful plenty of reason to cheer on Wednesday -- and notched one last rock 'n' roll win for itself, and the Joe, before the arena closes down later this summer.



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