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Concert Review: Bon Jovi's rock gives comfort

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

By John Young

There is comfort in community, especially in times of instability. Nowhere was that more audibly evident than at the Bon Jovi/Goo Goo Dolls concert at Mellon Arena last night. Both bands played hearty, life-affirming sing-along rock 'n' roll that acted as a balm for the many who likely spent at least part of the weekend soaking in troubling images of war.

The Goo Goo Dolls never addressed the conflict in Iraq directly, but singer Johnny Rzeznik connected with the faithful when he said, during a dramatic pause in "Iris," "I'm glad we're all here together tonight. Stick together and stay safe." The lyrics to the hit ballad resonated a bit more than usual, too, especially Rzeznik's lines about life feeling like the movies and some people needing to "bleed just to know [they're] alive."

Jon Bon Jovi specifically spoke of the war nine songs into his group's set. The singer dedicated "The Distance," from the new album "Bounce," to "the brave men and women overseas ... fighting for what this country is supposed to be about." The chorus lyrics could have been about love or personal triumph, but Bon Jovi's spoken introduction gave the words a more militaristic ring: "I never give up the fight; I go the distance."

Most of this night, however, was about coming together to sing peoples' troubles away. The arena crowd easily matched Bon Jovi's stage volume shouting along to the '80s hits "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The frontman was visibly wowed, joking that he had been granted special powers by the governor to extend the weekend by two days here in what he called "the toughest city in America."

Some of the material from "Bounce" was a bit darker and thornier, but fans still stomped along, waving American flags and belting out a catch phrase or two of each chorus. "Everyday" featured video clips, projected on screens attached to giant faux satellite dishes on stage, of multicultural people interacting in both threatening and loving fashion. "Undivided" played out to more linear video images of a punk and a cop creating a time capsule they label "Who We Are 2003."

More indicative, though, was a Richie Sambora-sung version of "I'll Be There For You." The band dragged the power ballad out to "Hey Jude" length, fans swayed and held lighters aloft, and, again, everyone sang. It wasn't profound and it wasn't challenging. It was comforting. It was sane. And on this Monday night, it was enough.

John Young is a freelance music reviewer.

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