Bon Jovi - Arena - 4/23/2013

Your mom wants to go see Bon Jovi in Glendale. Other people do, too -- don't get me wrong. Former hair-metal aficionados, air-guitar soloists, a surprising number of people in what appear to be Bon Jovi football jerseys. But mostly your mom.

Having successfully finished raising you and come into a little extra empty-nester income, she wants nothing more than to head out to Arena, maybe do a little upscale outlet shopping, and then watch Jon Bon Jovi sing and dance for three hours. And based on how things turned out on Tuesday, I can't blame her.

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Because Bon Jovi is astoundingly good, by now, at being Bon Jovi in front of an arena full of adoring fans. They know which singles to play when (a little "You Give Love a Bad Name" to whet the appetite, then some new stuff, then "It's My Life"); they know which rock poses they need to be making at any given moment (keyboardist David Bryan has rescued the face-the-crowd, keyboard-on-either-side strut from '80s music videos.)

And they know that their fans, for the most part, will go just as crazy for a five-year-old country-crossover hit ("You Can't Go Home," sans Sugarland, sat in the middle of the encore) as they will any talkbox-heavy '80s hit this side of "Livin' on a Prayer."

They're a nostalgia act, but unlike any of their contemporaries, they've shown a knack for making people nostalgic for their new material. They've grown with their audience -- from sinister-sounding riffs and Springsteen-y New Jersey angst to optimistic paeans to loving this town and doing things Because You Can -- in a way that seems cynical from a distance but probably isn't.

Your mom is Bon Jovi's age; they both loved angry metal when they were young and developed a taste for twangy acoustic guitar later on. It would be more cynical to not change anything.

It helps that Jon Bon Jovi is -- wardrobe aside -- basically the same person he was in 1988. Glam for a 20-something is impossible hair and and spandex outfits; glam for a 50-something is looking permanently 35 or so, and dressing in outfits 20-somethings wish they could afford.

Walking out from under the stage in unnervingly tight jeans, then, radiating (a totally justifiable!) pride at still looking like a 19-year-old anime street tough, Bon Jovi addressed the audience as "babe" and asked us, collectively, to sit back for the next two and a half hours and let him drive. Well, all right.

Then he gyrated -- and gyrated and gyrated, stopping only to play the acoustic guitar on the newer stuff -- through two and a half hours' worth of stomping midtempo pop-metal.

At one point Jon Bon Jovi told us -- told "babe," that is, me and my mom (a fanclub member from way back) and your mom -- that we ain't never been on a roller coaster like him before. We probably have, is the thing: He's been doing this for a long time. But part of delivering the Bon Jovi experience every night in 2013 is acting like the smiling, successful man in front of you, wearing a red vest and no shirt, is a little dangerous, even when he's singing "Have a Nice Day."

Somehow, Tuesday night, they managed to do it.

Setlist: That's What the Water Made Me
You Give Love a Bad Name
Born to Be My Baby
Raise Your Hands
Lost Highway
Whole Lot of Leaving
It's My Life
Because We Can
What About Now
Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars
We Got It Goin' On
Keep the Faith
(You Want To) Make a Memory
Bed of Roses
Last Man Standing
We Weren't Born to Follow
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (with "Dancing in the Street" and "Start Me Up")
Bad Medicine

Encore: Wanted Dead or Alive
You Can't Go Home
Have a Nice Day
Livin' on a Prayer

Encore 2: Always
I Love This Town

Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Bon Jovi at Arena Personal Bias: I've been to multiple wedding reception in the past five years, which means I've sung along to "Livin' on a Prayer" with friends and family on multiple occasions. Overheard in the Crowd: Jonny!!!!! Jonny!!!!!!!!!! Not Overheard Even Once in the Crowd, Which Was A Little Surprising: The words "Richie Sambora." Random Notebook Dump: Extremely high concentration of women who smell like very expensive perfume doing snake-charmer dances during "Bed of Roses."

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Dan Moore