"This is probably the smallest thing we did since dinner last night at my place," joked Jon Bon Jovi Monday night, referring to the intimate confines of the Nokia Theater Times Square in New York City. His band Bon Jovi christened the new 2,100-capacity venue -- the audience included Jay-Z, Beyonce and L.A. Reid, among others -- by bringing out their arena-sized blast of melodic hooks and rock-star poses.
It was an auspicious occasion for the New Jersey rockers to kick off the release of their brand-new album, Have a Nice Day, which debuts in stores today. Other than being the launch for the new album and the theater's grand opening, the sold-out show was also a multimedia event that was broadcast live on AOL, XM Satellite Radio and more than 100 movie screens across the country. Then again, having sold 100 million-plus albums worldwide and performed more than 2,500 concerts in front of 32 million people, Bon Jovi have embraced the notion of spectacle throughout their twenty-two-year career.
With several cameras placed throughout the venue to capture every angle for the broadcast, Bon Jovi started things off with the aggressive "Last Man Standing." It was one of a handful of new songs off of Have a Nice Day, along with the album's defiant title track and the upbeat "Who Says You Can't Go Home." The band delivered emotional readings of their early heartland rocker "The Radio Saved My Life Tonight" and an unplugged "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night."
Not surprisingly, however, the fan reaction was loudest for the trademark pumped-up hits "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Livin' on a Prayer," "Born to Be My Baby," "It's My Life" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." When frontman Bon Jovi asked, "Is there a doctor in the house?" during the encore, one immediately knew it was the band's cue to grind out the stomping "Bad Medicine." When the band busted out "Raise Your Hands," a chestnut from their 1986 breakthrough Slippery When Wet, the audience heeded the call by swaying their arms in the air.
And Bon Jovi matched their enthusiasm. Much to the audible delight of female fans in the house, Jon strutted around sweat-soaked in his long-sleeved blue shirt, while his guitar foil Richie Sambora provided muscular riffs -- particularly on "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" and the funky rocker "Keep the Faith."
Making the best of the venue's more intimate setting, offset by four gigantic chandeliers, Bon Jovi gave a taste of what's to come this November at an arena near you.