Saturday night’s Bon Jovi concert at the Tacoma Dome was like a Northwest homecoming for the New Jersey rock band, which performed there in the late 1980s and is currently the No. 1 touring act worldwide, according to Pollstar.
Grinning widely after nearly two hours of superheated rock ‘n’ roll, 51-year-old guitarist and lead singer Jon Bon Jovi (in an American flag jacket) recalled the band’s 1989 concert at the Tacoma venue and thanked fans for years of support and friendship. (Along with the Dome, the band is celebrating its 30th anniversary.)
“Still with me out there?” he said to the cheering crowd before launching into “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
Longtime fans, some of whom likely attended that Tacoma concert in 1989, were out in force. They sang along loudly and enthusiastically to the band’s memorable anthems, including “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” “Bad Medicine” and “Runaway.”
But the marathon show’s first half-hour was filled with songs that sounded much too alike, and Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals were sometimes buried in the mix.
Phil Xenidis did an admirable job of filling in for singer-guitarist Richie Sambora, who left the band (or was fired) earlier this year. Also impressive was Rich Scannella, subbing for drummer Tico Torres, still recovering from a recent appendectomy. And keyboardist David Bryan was remarkable on “Keep the Faith,” giving his Hammond B-3 organ a vigorous workout. Filling out the group were guitarist Bobby Bandiera and bassist Hugh McDonald.
Changing into black leather, Jon Bon Jovi came to the lower ramp for a semi-acoustic set with Bryan (on accordion) and Bandiera (guitar) for “(You Want to) Make a Memory,” “Saturday Night” and a new song, “Thick As Thieves.” Then came a stirring, slow-burning version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.”
The elaborate production included three video screens, banks of motorized lights and a backdrop of metal towers projecting beams of light.
“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” featured a raucous medley of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Start Me Up” that was really fun.
For the finale of “Bad Medicine,” the band leader jokingly compared himself to Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and the twerking Miley Cyrus, then offered some wild dance moves for the Isley Brothers’ classic, “Shout.”
During the encore, the band’s highflying “Livin’ on a Prayer” prompted the noisiest singalong, nearly raising decibels to Seahawks stadium levels.