Bon Jovi Rocks South Florida on Birthday

Island Records
Best Bets Tours 2013, Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi celebrated his birthday March 2 with an emotional show at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. that featured a relentless string of hits that spanned Bon Jovi's 30-year-career, but also highlighted the group's continued musical and on-stage relevance.

The "Because We Can" tour, so named for the first single of the group's upcoming album "What About Now," was as much about the old hits as the new in the making, with a vast arsenal of music performed with extraordinary musicianship by guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres and Bon Jovi, who looks fit and trim and whose voice sounds equally  undiminished by time.

"Happy Saturday night to you," he said simply after the kicking off the show with a bang with "You Give Love a Bad Name" -- followed by "Raise Your Hands" and "Lost Highway" before introducing new material.

"We want to play new stuff from the new album, starting off with the new single," he added. "Then, I promise you'll hear all the hits you wanna hear for the next three hours."

But this evening was far from an exercise in nostalgia, thanks in part to a jaw-dropping, changing "screen" made up of giant, hexagonal columns that dropped from above and rose from the floor, acquiring varying shapes (at one point, Bon Jovi jumped from column to column) and serving as sets, frames and screens of varying shapes and for a wide array of visual material (standouts included the water droplets and the graphic-novel imagery). While some may yearn for the pyrotechnics of yore, trust me when I say this was far more impressive.

But really, what keeps Bon Jovi fresh is the repertoire and the execution. The singer isn't as agile as he used to be and the dancing and gyrating have been taken down several notches, as have the get-ups. But at Friday's birthday celebration, the energy mustered by Richie Sambora (looking lean and cut) and Bon Jovi front stage was contagious, enough to keep a crowd mostly between their 20s and 50s on their feet and engaged (sing-alongs and call-backs were common) throughout the show. It helps that the band is tight and strong  ("That's What the Water Made Me" provided ample opportunity for virtuosic display for all members, plus Richie Sambora is looking cut), aided by a sound mix that was particularly sharp, particularly for an arena setting.

From the feel-good "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead,"  to the poignant and rousing "Amen"(a new track reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's "Hallellujah," a song Bon Jovi admires and has covered) to the beautifully harmonized "Runaway," this was a joyful musical tour de force.

Don't know what Bon Jovi got for his birthday, but his 27-song set to his was reason enough to celebrate.


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