At: TD Banknorth Garden, Friday
Like fellow populist success story REO Speedwagon before it, Bon Jovi was never going to be mistaken for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame material, but what the band did, it did with a ruthless efficiency. With hooks aplenty to grab the pop crowd and just enough crunch and power to grab the ear of the metalheads, its songs may have been aggressively middle of the road, but it defined anthemic '80s rock as much as anyone.
Showcasing a liberal mixture of career-spanning hits and tracks from Bon Jovi's latest album, ''Have a Nice Day," Friday's show at the TD Banknorth Garden showed how well the formula has held up, as well as how little it has changed. Every song had a catchy simplicity, and new material such as the charging title track and the vaguely rootsy ''Who Says You Can't Go Home?" sounded right at home alongside ''Bad Medicine" and ''You Give Love a Bad Name."
The band's audience-friendliness resulted in singalongs on ''Born to Be My Baby," ''Livin' on a Prayer," and ''Wanted Dead or Alive," but it was a double-edged sword. Jon Bon Jovi seemed to play to the cameras as much as to the crowd, and the video on the stage-size screen that served as a backdrop made it tempting to ignore the action onstage and just watch television. Opening the show with the singer on a satellite platform out by the mixing board (a stunt he repeated from another spot during ''Blaze of Glory") gave those without front-row tickets a close-up of him and allowed him to high-five and hug audience members on the way back to the stage, but it also completely drew away attention from the rest of the band.
But that eagerness to include everyone at all costs is partly how Bon Jovi made its name, and over the course of 2 1/2 hours, the band delivered exactly the same slick kicks it promised 10 and 20 years ago. ''I'm not old, just older," sang the frontman, and the audience nodded in agreement.
Local act Damone opened Friday's show, and the band's easy adjustment to the cavernous space suggested that, like the headliners, it was born for arenas and is simply biding its time until it gets to headline in them. A natural arena frontwoman, guitarist Noelle LeBlanc led her band through a tight and ferocious set that leapt from the Judas Priest/Kiss gallop of ''What We Came Here For" to the massive power ballad ''When You Live."