Never one to shy away from easy applause and textbook showmanship, Jon Bon Jovi even managed to get the fans seated behind the stage at Xcel Energy Center in the palm of his hand during Monday night’s concert. Or at least he held their attention with a certain part of his anatomy.
“For the next 2½ hours, you’re gonna have to be staring at my rear end,” he said in feigned apology to the cheap seats.
Predictably, a cheer erupted that was nearly as loud as the one that greeted “You Give Love a Bad Name” three tunes into the 23-song set list.
Even with his charisma still in fine shape — and his stamina still strong enough to wear black leather all night without passing out or messing up his hair with sweat, Monday’s concert wasn’t just a typical cakewalk for handsome ol’ Jonny and his namesake band.
Xcel Energy Center had the dubious distinction of hosting one of the first Bon Jovi concerts without co-founding guitarist, Richie Sambora, who abruptly quit while on tour in 2013. This time out, the band made a case for staying true to its history while carving out a future. The frontman talked a lot about the band “being in disrepair” and needing “to get back to our roots,” repair work at the heart of the band’s new album, “This House Is Not for Sale.”
“We’re going to be talking a lot about the record tonight,” the singer warned early on.
While Sambora’s replacement, Phil X, never made the kind of impression his predecessor did despite having the cooler name, the lineup change did nothing to dampen the audience’s response. Likewise, the crowd proved unusually receptive to the half-dozen songs played off the new record, from the title track that kicked off the show to the very E Street-like “Roller Coaster” offered mid-concert.
And what a crowd it was, too. With the seats sold behind the stage, attendance surpassed 18,000 people, including primo seats that topped $500. Not bad for a Monday night gig by a band many people wrote off around the same time its frontman took a write-off for investing in an arena football team.
As always, though, Jon Bon Jovi, 55, worked the stage like a consummate pro and proved why his fans cheer for a lot more than his hair and derrière.
With his thick and unmoving coif, ruggedly raspy voice and canned but passionate-sounding banter between songs, he recalled another veteran act coming to Xcel Center this year, Neil Diamond. Like Diamond’s, Bon Jovi’s voice has faded, but it didn’t matter when it came time for “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” in the encore, since the fans sang along like their lives depended on it.
There was no “Runaway” this time, though. Apparently Jon Bon Jovi didn’t want to dig too far back into the roots and find all those empty hair-spray cans.
In the vein of Bon Jovi’s return to doing-it-for-the-love-of-it, the Step Rockets, a young Minneapolis band, won a contest to serve as the opening act. It was a sweet setup for the show.
“Thank you for being a part of our dream come true,” said frontman Brady Lillie, who sang with that same amount of earnestness as his bandmates (including a prerecorded bassist) delivered a bouncy, new wavy brand of pop/rock that might have fit in alongside Bon Jovi cassettes in a Datsun car radio circa 1986.
Here’s Bon Jovi’s set list from Monday:
“This House Is Not for Sale”
“You Give Love a Bad Name”
“Whole Lot of Leavin’”
“We Weren’t Born to Follow”
“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”
“We Got It Goin’ On”
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
“It’s My Life”
“We Don’t Run”
“God Bless This Mess”
“Scars on This Guitar”
“New Year’s Day”
“Lay Your Hands on Me”
“Born to Be My Baby”
“Have a Nice Day”
“Keep the Faith”
“Blood on Blood”
“Wanted Dead or Alive”
“Livin' on a Prayer”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658