Classic Rock Corner

Last Night: Bon Jovi At Toyota Center

Bon Jovi Toyota Center May 17, 2011

Keep the faith with Bon Jovi and their hordes of Houston fans in our slideshow.

It's no easy feat to emerge relatively unscathed from the ruins of the '80s metal boom. Bon Jovi's more glam-oriented contemporaries can no longer hope to fill the big arenas (though we understand you can catch Whitesnake and Warrant at Coushatta this weekend), and while Jon and the boys certainly exploited the spandex and Aqua Net trappings of that era to their full advantage, you could tell they craved something that eluded their peers: Legitimacy.

Because when you get down the nuts and bolts of it, Bon Jovi's appeal has always rested on their ability to match power chord to cliché. Look at some of those song titles: "The More Things Change?" "Have a Nice Day?" "Keep the Faith?" You wonder sometimes if JBJ eats a lot of fortune cookies.

But what can't be denied is the man's ability to work a crowd. There is a dearth of rock and roll showmen here in the new millennium, but even at 49 years of age, the formerly leonine lead singer pranced, cajoled, and posed his way into the audience's heart at Toyota Center last night.

Put another way, he saw 20,000 faces, and he rocked them all.

The band came out to an animated opening sequence that looked like TRON as directed by Michael Bay, and they didn't open especially strong. "Lost Highway" is one of those songs that makes people think of the New Jersey band as "Sprinsgteen lite," with its talk of "dashboard Jesuses" and "half a tank of gas." But from there the band kicked into "You Give Love a Bad Name," and the crowd was his.

When we say JBJ is a poser, we mean it in the best possible - literal - way. He's honed his stage presence over three decades of performances into a well-oiled fist pumping, foot stomping machine, and the audience licked it up. To quote another, more flamboyant rock group.

"Born to Be My Baby" was next, followed by another relative clunker, "We Weren't Born to Follow" from their most recent release, the underwhelming Circle. The quasi-motivational visuals on the otherwise impressive video system didn't help, as the color palette was obviously meant to remind us of those Obama "Hope" ads. It's cool, because we know JBJ's an Obama guy, Aftermath just wasn't sure Oprah Winfrey belongs in the same stratum as Winston Churchill.

For "Runaway," JBJ said he was taking us back in his time machine to the Summit ("I was there once!"), and we must admit, for those three minutes he could have led 20,000 people burning and looting their way through downtown Houston. Pray he never uses his powers for evil.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar