20 years ago today: Bon Jovi's "lame tunes and hot licks" in Vancouver

Twenty years ago today–on Sunday, November 28, 1993–Bon Jovi played the Pacific Coliseum. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Jersey band, but I wound up going, and my review appeared in the Straight's Dec. 3 issue under the headline “Lame Tunes and Hot Licks Even Out at Bon Jovi Show”.

How can you not want to read a two decades-old review of a hugely popular band that relied heavily on its singer’s incredible cuteness! 

On the way home from the Coliseum after last Sunday’s Bon Jovi show, I flicked on CFOX to hear Bruce Allen’s talk show, Sound Off. Now, I don’t know if Allen is currently trying to wangle the job of managing the New Jersey rock act, but he sure went on and on about how successful the band is, foaming at the mouth over how many millions of records it has sold and how its latest tour has left multitudes of sold-out venues in its mighty wake.

While Allen’s loudly stated figures were no doubt accurate, it’s that same kind of sensationalistic promotion that has given Bon Jovi a bad name among more serious-minded rock fans. The fact remains that underneath all the industry hoopla and media hype lies a very talented band, but one that just happens to have some really lame tunes.

As Gary Glitter’s “Rock On” churned from the P.A., the Bon Jovi members, sans Jon, took their places on a vast, multilevelled grey stage with runways stretching out onto the floor. Amidst a blast of shooting sparks, the former Mr. Bongiovi raced out, banging away on a black Les Paul to the strains of “I Believe”.

As expected, the crowd of 10,500 went nuts. It had been a long four years since Vancouver’s Bon Jovi fans had seen their heroes in the flesh, and though this show was a step down in ticket sales for the band–from a 17,000-plus B.C. Place crowd–its members seeemed thrilled to be back in the town that spawned their last three hit albums.

Bon Jovi himself couldn’t contain his enthusiasm during the set’s second tune, “Wild in the Streets”, dashing unescorted into the crowd at stage right. At that point, it looked like the risk-taking rock idol’s new hairdo would be seriously altered–or worse–but none of his crazed fans caused physical damage. One of them knocked the cordless mike from his hand, but he quickly retrieved it and headed back to the safety of the stage. The diminutive rocker must have taken a few years off the life of his head of security with that brave stunt.

Still not out to win favour among feminists, Bon Jovi dedicated “You Give Love a Bad Name” to all the strippers he and his bandmates have enjoyed ogling at the local peeler joints, in particular the Number 5 Orange, where the title of the group’s breakthrough album, Slippery When Wet, was conceived. There wasn’t any chanting of “Shower! Shower!” from the Coliseum crowd, so Bon Jovi kept his own clothes on. Later he did invite one well-endowed woman up on stage, though, and made sure that everyone in attendance took note of her two big talents.

What a wacky guy!

Other weak points of the two-hour show were the performance of Bon Jovi’s tedious (yet somehow Grammy-nominated) solo hit “Blaze of Glory” and perhaps his band’s most insufferable tune, “Lay Your Hands on Me”. Fortunately, impressive selections such as “Born to Be My Baby”, “Living on a Prayer”, and the recent “Keep the Faith” evened things up.

Musical stalwarts of the night were drummer Tico Torres, whose consistently boisterous skin-bashing led the way, and guitarist Richie Sambora, whose stunning vocal stole the show during an a capella version of the Beatles’ “Help”. If their titular singer ever decides to leave, the remaining Bon Joviers won’t have far to look for a replacement.

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