Bon Jovi Returns to Rock the CTC
Photos: Renée Boucher Doiron
Back in the day, the band that occupied the most Hit Parader poster space on my teenage wall after Guns ‘N Roses was Bon Jovi. In retrospect, it could have been due to the copious amounts of hair on said posters requiring all those two page spreads. Nowadays, my love of the band has one buddy labeling me a soccer mom. Well, if still rockin’ a little air guitar each time “Living on a Prayer” comes on the playlist makes me a soccer mom then, oh yeah, I admit it. Minus the van and the sporty kids, I’m a soccer mom and, damn it, if I did have those sport kids loaded into that van you best bet we’d all be fist pumpin’ our way to practice to a cranked full pin power play of Slippery When Wet!
“Ohhhhhh, we’re half way therrrreeee!!!”
It’s my life, right, and judging from most of the squeals, screams and shrieks coming from a near sold out Canadian Tire Centre last night, we Ottawa soccer moms were out in full Jovi loving force. It’s been five years (and at least one arena name change) since Jon and the boys last played Ottawa and though minus one Richie Sambora the group is still going strong on wings carrying them farther than most 80s hair bands ever manage to fly.
A lot of that comes from not just relying on tried and true hits and still releasing quality recordings that top the charts. Case in point, recent album This House Is Not For Sale was just another #1 in a long line of accolades for a band that doesn’t show any rust on the chassis even after 35 years blazing down the road.
“First you set out to make a great record and learn the craft of that. Then once you get to the number one record you realize that that was the hardest thing. Then you realize well the hardest thing is to stay number one and to remain current. It’s definitely an effort and it seems to be working,” Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan told Ottawa Lifein an interview earlier this year.
“You have no idea how it’s going to turn out,” added drummer Tico Torres. “To me every song you do and every record is like a new born baby. You don’t know how they’re going to grow up. We’re able to keep going and that’s what keeps us wanting to do it and not regurgitation of what our past was.”
While one can respect that, this reviewer does hearken back to the days when bangs were so big you had to peer around them to see the band. While the hair maintained a more reasonable altitude for last night’s O-town gig, the guitar solos on the radio favourites were thankfully still oozing drops of that fabulous 80s glam metal magic. By song two, Slippery’s“Raise Your Hands” didn’t need to ask once, let alone ask twice. Those hands were already up followed quickly by the crowd when “You Give Love a Bad Name” rolled into set slot #3.
“On a Monday night in Ottawa and this place is Jam packed,” said Jon bouncing about the stage as though sporting an invisible pogo stick. Seriously, the dude can bounce!
“This is a Bon Jovi concert. Get out of those seats and show me what you’re made of!”
Not only can he bounce but he also can shake the hell out of a set of maracas as demonstrated on “Keep the Faith” played at the midway point. Showcasing the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ability to continuously crank out catchy tunes, newer tracks like “Roller Coaster” nestled up nicely to hits like “It’s My Life” and “Born to Be My Baby” and should have been hits like “We Weren’t Born to Follow” and “We Got It Going On”.
“I love coming back to Ottawa for one reason and one reason only: I love to hear Canadian girls scream,” said Jovi eliciting the expected retort.
Much to their elation, a few of those women would get much closer to Jon than they probably were expecting when the frontman left the stage and appeared on a mini-stage set up in the penalty box area. This wouldn’t be a five minute major for rocking out, though, as the area was reserved for some ballads in the box (as well as a slew of selfies with Jovi butt serving as background). After “Amen” he’d wander deeper into the crowd while belting out “Bed of Roses” as couples slow danced around the arena as though reliving youthful loves in Grade 8 gymnasiums.
“As soon as the lights down, the fans paid really good money to come see a show and you want to give them the greatest show they’ve ever seen. Forget your troubles for two or three hours and then walk away and go home and say you enjoyed yourself,” Torres would tell me on how crowds like Ottawa’s arena filling turnout keep motivating the band tour after tour.
Bryan spoke of the band’s pre-show ritual also firing them up telling me that “once everybody’s dressed we put our hands all in right before we get on stage and we all look at each other and say, ‘Let’s get out there and have some fun and kick some ass,’ and then we go out there and do it!”
After the slower interlude, the biggest ass kickin’ cuts followed with a barnstorm to the encore that included “Lay Your Hands On Me”, “Bad Medicine” and the farthest reach back into the vaults, “Runaway”, the band’s first single keyboard-poundin’ us allllllllll the way into ‘82! Though the encore would contain another love laced surprise in “(You Want to) Make a Memory”, those hoping for the really deep cut “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” would be sadly disappointed. (For reals, that’s a thing. Wiki it up!)
Still, crowd pleasers “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” sent everybody home ready to tear their jeans, fluff out their hair and power chord the 80s back into the mainstream. Well, maybe not quite but the smiles told the tale. Bon Jovi has seen a million faces and he’s rocked them all. Add another packed house, including us soccer moms, to the thoroughly rocked ranks!
- This House Is Not For Sale
- Raise Your Hands
- You Give Love a Bad Name
- Whole Lot of Leavin’
- Lost Highway
- Roller Coaster
- Born to be My Baby
- It’s My Life
- We Weren’t Born to Follow
- We Got it Going On
- Keep the Faith
- Bed of Roses
- Lay Your Hands on Me
- I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
- Bad Medicine
- (You Want to) Make a Memory
- Wanted Dead or Alive
- Livin’ on a Prayer