After 20 years, Bon Jovi still rock

Jessie Markovetz

I readily admit it: I am a Bon Jovi fan.

It’s not as cool to say as it was back in second grade, when I could pop “Slippery When Wet” into my Fisher-Price tape recorder along with the rest of the nation. And while much about the band has changed in that time, it’s clear to see that 20 years after its first taste of stardom, Bon Jovi still know how to rock.

The boys from New Jersey hammered that point home on Tuesday, as they played back-to-back sellout shows in Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The world tour is now heading to Europe to promote the band’s latest full-length release, “Bounce,” which was first offered in September.

“You’d think after 20 years I’d be tired of pushing these records,” frontman Jon Bon Jovi told the audience Tuesday night. “But if you downloaded it, you can just tell me you downloaded it … so I can go to your house and break your computer,” he added with a laugh.

The opening act for the Jersey quartet was the Goo Goo Dolls, who performed songs off its last two albums to a still-filling arena. It got the crowd started with “Dizzy,” and moved into radio staples “Slide,” “Black Balloon” and “Here is Gone.” The standout songs were John Rzeznik’s soul-wrenching delivery of “Sympathy” and “Iris,” along with the stadium-rocking “Big Machine” and “Name.”

By the time the Dolls finished the set, the capacity crowd was roaring and waiting for the main act. Fortunately, Bon Jovi did not disappoint. The band opened up with the title track off their new album, “Bounce,” which all but shook the mighty arena to its foundation. It followed with “You Give Love a Bad Name,” at which point it became obvious that Jon Bon Jovi is entirely unnecessary at a Bon Jovi concert because their fans know all of the lyrics, and however tone-deaf they might be, they belt out the lyrics along to the tune. Perhaps this is why lead guitarist Richie Sambora was chosen to sing the classic, “I’ll Be There For You,” which led to a great many weepy eyes from the pit of women on the floor and a generous amount of lighter-flickering from the men.

The band successfully merged new with old: for every rocking rendition of a dust-covered classic like “Runaway,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” there was a powerful new hit like “It’s My Life,” “Everyday” and “Just Older.”

You could probably see this band anywhere and walk away realizing you had gotten your money’s worth for the evening, but the crowd is what makes a Bon Jovi show all the more entertaining. This is why I would recommend not seeing the band in Philadelphia or University Park but in New Jersey, where the raw energy of the hometown crowd simply overwhelms you with its electric emotion, causing you to scream along with the row of teenagers in front of you and mothers behind you and eventually dumping you in the parking lot with a feeling of complete exhaustion.

The band returns to the Garden State in early August with a couple of dates at Giants Stadium — if you’re looking for a good way to kiss the summer goodbye, I highly recommend driving up the turnpike for one wild night.