Loud and fast rules the night for Bon Jovi at TD Garden
Someone had to say it, and Jon Bon Jovi decided he would be the first to do so.
“I’m like Viagra for women out here,’’ he boasted last night at TD Garden, drawing deafening applause and approval from the ladies, many of whom had been pawing at him on the eve of his 49th birthday.
That joke — no doubt recycled night to night — came toward the end of Bon Jovi’s sold-out show at the Garden, but it wrongly implied the band’s appeal lies solely in its swaggering frontman. It doesn’t. Judging from the solid and hard-driving performance the Jersey rockers delivered over 2 1/2 hours, it was clear this band works hard to stay on top.
Theirs is a tough balancing act between arena-ready nostalgia and the fact that they are still commercially viable. For every monster ’80s hit (“You Give Love a Bad Name,’’ “Bad Medicine’’), there were newer ones lurking in the set list (“Lost Highway,’’ “I Love This Town’’), and they all jelled surprisingly well.
If the songs had a common thread, it was the band’s conviction to play them all at full throttle. It is not a slight to say bombast is Bon Jovi’s stock-in-trade, from Richie Sambora’s spiraling guitar riffs to the video screens that needlessly projected fireworks during a song already over the top (“Keep the Faith’’).
The band members were good sports, too. When their soundboard short-circuited and temporarily rendered the band completely inaudible, Jon hammed it up with a little tap dance and sulked on the lip of the stage. Any notion of an acoustic set was ruled out 10 minutes later.
Louder and faster, in fact, were actually preferable to the more solemn attempts at reverence.
When Jon turned introspective on a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,’’ he seemed ill at ease with the song’s soft-spoken charm. (And the poor guy’s heartfelt faces were, unbeknownst to him, nearly upstaged by the mugging women behind him grasping at his derriere.)
Other times, the comfort and camaraderie of a band that has been together so long were palpable.
Fist-bumps aside, it was genuinely moving to see Jon and Sambora soak up the adulation after “Wanted Dead or Alive.’’
And in case you could not tell they were having as much fun as the audience, there was mutual catharsis to be had in the wide-open call-and-response of “Livin’ on a Prayer.’’
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.