Bon Jovi brings New Jersey to Vancouver, and Aerosmith shows up too

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Twenty-five years ago tomorrow–on May 11, 1989–Bon Jovi played Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium. The quintet was touring behind its fourth album, the locally-made, Bruce Fairbairn-produced New Jersey, which spawned five singles and has sold more than seven-million copies in the U.S. alone.

The concert was memorable by late-’80s standards, I suppose, because it included appearances by members of Aerosmith (with Bon Jovi) and Motley Crue (with opening act Skid Row). Here’s my review of the show, which was published in the May 19 issue of the Georgia Straight.

The first time Bon Jovi played B.C. Place, in the summer of ’87, the band drew 22,000 fans. Last Thursday the New Jersey rockers could only pull in 18,000. Does that mean the masters of mainstream metal are on the way out? Insert your own answer here.

In tandem with a colossal spray of sparks, Jon and the boys too the stage to the strains of “Lay Your Hands on Me” (not the Thompson Twins tune). Even with the theatre bowl set-up that divides the dome in half, the fellows were awfully hard to make out from way across in the media box. Memories of the band showcasing tunes from its then-upcoming Slippery When Wet album at the Embassy in ’86 came floating back; that was when the entire stage they were on was smaller than one of the video screens that project their images at concerts today.

The sound quality in the football stadium was a little better than the last time Bon Jovi played here–but only a little. When groups like Pink Floyd, Supertramp, and U2 can make the place sound decent, you’d figure that other wealthy acts could afford to do the same. Or maybe hard-rock bands are just too loud for the venue. (I guess we’ll find out when the Who hits town.)

Performance-wise, Bon Jovi deserves credit for its high-energy renditions of catchy pop-metal tunes. Despite all the flack the group gets from hoity-toity alternative types, they are very good at what they do. Particularly impressive was the constant thwack of Tico Torres’ insistent drumming, and Richie Sambora’s feverish guitar bursts. Jon himself was the usual ball of sexy fire, keeping starry-eyed teens on the brink of pandemonium with nifty rockers like “Runaway” and not-so-nifty ballads like “I’ll Be There For You”.

The high point of Bon Jovi’s set came when the members of Aerosmith–in town recording their next album–were called up for a loose version of “Walk This Way”. “I just want to say one thing,” bellowed Steven Tyler, who then screeched his trademark cock-in-heat mating call: “ICKA-ICKA-ICKA-OWW-OWW!” When the ‘Smiths left, Bon Jovi finished off with the first single from its latest album, “Bad Medicine”. Strangely enough, the huge hit, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, was not included in the set.

While Bon Jovi’s popularity may be waning somewhat, the night’s opening act, Skid Row, is gaining ground very quickly, although this scribbler can’t see what all the fuss is about. They look and sound the same as a hundred other hard-rock bands today, too many of which copy elements of Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and AC/DC to come up with what you might term “generic late-’80s radio metal”.

“There was more noise than this in my bedroom last night,” claimed Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, when the crowd’s response was not up to snuff. “I hope you can feel this song between your legs, where it counts,” he shouted, introducing another of the band’s unimaginative crotch-rockers.

On the positive side, the band did have the odd decent tune (“Youth Gone Wild” was one). And Bach did get a jab in at teen queen Debbie Gibson–though his music does not sound any more genuine than hers. The best song of Skid Row’s set wasn’t even theirs–it was a version of Motley Crue’s “Live Wire”, helped out by the appearance of Vince Neil, Mick Mars, and Nikki Sixx.

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