Not much metal in a gold suit

Bon Jovi | Wembley Stadium, London
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The Independent Culture

Bon Jovi have only just, after six weeks at the top of the world, ceded the number one spot in the global chart to the Corrs. You could go out for the evening anywhere in the world and have a good chance of hearing a Bon Jovi number before the night is out. They are huge. They are far bigger than is decent for a purported metal band. To sell out two nights at Wembley Stadium is a feat of boy-band magnitude. And when they kick off with a rather obvious and lacklustre cover of the Clash's "London Calling", they are given the kind of effusive welcome normally reserved for boy bands. But this audience is old enough to know better. Rockers are notable by their absence tonight: devotees of true metal would, of course, be horrified by the idea of coming here. The audience is a mixed and generally normal-looking bunch, although the female contingent is considerably more vocal, picking up on gestures from the frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, that are invisible to the male eye, and responding with ambulance-summoning screams

Bon Jovi have only just, after six weeks at the top of the world, ceded the number one spot in the global chart to the Corrs. You could go out for the evening anywhere in the world and have a good chance of hearing a Bon Jovi number before the night is out. They are huge. They are far bigger than is decent for a purported metal band. To sell out two nights at Wembley Stadium is a feat of boy-band magnitude. And when they kick off with a rather obvious and lacklustre cover of the Clash's "London Calling", they are given the kind of effusive welcome normally reserved for boy bands. But this audience is old enough to know better. Rockers are notable by their absence tonight: devotees of true metal would, of course, be horrified by the idea of coming here. The audience is a mixed and generally normal-looking bunch, although the female contingent is considerably more vocal, picking up on gestures from the frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, that are invisible to the male eye, and responding with ambulance-summoning screams.

Well aware that his looks have played a large part in the band's success, Jon plays up to the mass hysteria, and large banks of video monitors broadcast to the farthest reaches of the stadium his every wiggle and each flash of his lovely smile. He has chosen to deck himself out all in gold this evening: "The spirit of Elvis made me wear this suit," he quips.

The band boldly choose to play as their second and third numbers the two singles that fuelled their rapid rise to superstardom, and which have remained the favourites in the corpus; one is concerned about how they will prop up the remainder of the set. "Living on a Prayer" documents the hard daily grind faced by Tommy and Gina. It is an anthem of working-class solidarity - an oddity for this band - and, as a sea of fingers stabs the air in unison to the chant of, "Whoa, we're half-way there..." the air is thick with the memories of a million karaokes. The breakthrough "You Give a Bad Name" quickly follows. It really does seem strange that they are using up all their ammunition in the first round. And indeed the set does slowly lose momentum from here. Perhaps it is the similarity of all the songs.

Material from the new album, Crush, is woven into the set but does not stand out. The last single, the global smash "It's My Life", borrows the half-man, half-guitar sound effect from "Living..."; Tommy and Gina even make an unscheduled cameo appearance in it.

Bon Jovi's Wembley concerts are the last before the stadium is demolished, and Jon makes repeated attempts to lend the gig the lustre of an historic event: "Before anyone tears down these walls, they'll have to get through me." It is hard not to put a cynical construction on this absurd posturing. Bon Jovi have never set out their stall as radicals, and the secret of their success lies in not offering up anything too challenging. Accordingly, the rebel/cowboy stance of too many of their tunes comes across as rather pathetic once one emerges from the spell of the gloriously catchy choruses.

Yes, it's true: Bon Jovi are a pop band. Jon had best watch out. Next time the phone rings, it could be 5ive, enquiring about the possibility of a duet.

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