Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.
FOXBOROUGH -- Bon Jovi is all about big, bold strokes and big, easy-to-remember catch phrases: Livin' on a Prayer . Keep the Faith . Blaze of Glory . Wanted Dead or Alive . Like the New Jersey pop-metal band's sturdy, arena-ready hooks, you've heard all the lines before. But somehow, the meat-and-potato anthems -- because they bring back the promise, recklessness, and melodrama of youth -- still signify good times and a rock 'n' roll fantasy or two.
Bon Jovi has never pretended, or claimed, to be about anything other than those things. The romanticized, rock-star-as-cowboy shtick has served heartthrob lead singer Jon Bon Jovi and his sidekick, guitarist Richie Sambora , very well, and the ``steel horse" of the band's tour bus has carried it to 20 years of sold-out stadium shows packed with fans who've purchased their own slice of the Bon Jovi fantasy by the tens of millions.
Bon Jovi's scored big again with its current ``Have a Nice Day" world tour (named after the band's triple-platinum 2005 album), and the handful of new selections -- the opener, ``Last Man Standing" ; ``Story of My Life" ; ``Wildflower" ; and the feel-good country crossover hit ``Who Says You Can't Go Home" -- demonstrated that the band still believes in its ability to churn out a potent, sing-along power ballad tailor-made for paradise by the dashboard lights. If the crowd's reaction was any indication, the band has guessed right.
Flexing and flashing lots of skin, hair, pearly whites, and a stage-born showman's false modesty, Bon Jovi (the man, not the band) proved a consummate performer for an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000, whose appetite for Jon Bon's camera-ready smile and rock star flounce proved voracious. ``I refuse to be treated as just another boy toy," he quipped during an extended ``Bad Medicine" that segued into the '60's R&B chestnut ``Shout" and back again. He was kidding, of course, and reveled in the attention. Sambora had his turn in the spotlight, too, looking a bit like Stevie Ray Vaughan's younger brother , and tore off his best guitar solo of the night -- a bleary slice of blues-rock -- on ``I'll Be There for You."
Augmented by an extra guitarist and keyboardist on loan from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes , Bon Jovi delivered exactly what was expected of it -- no more, no less -- with a bar band's work ethic and a stadium superstar's professionalism. So we got the faux bad boy attitude of ``You Give Love a Bad Name," a surprisingly lean, naively charming ``Runaway," the monstrously bathetic ``Livin' on a Prayer," and, of course, the encore opener, ``Wanted Dead or Alive." At one point, announcing that the New England Patriots were in the house, Jon Bon Jovi said he wished he were as ``pretty as [ quarterback Tom ] Brady and as smart as [ coach Bill ] Belichick." More false modesty. Bon Jovi is plenty pretty and plenty smart.
Canadian hard rockers Nickelback opened with a blaring set of indistinct alterna-rock that offered a reminder of what went wrong during the post-grunge years. Still, the group just keeps getting bigger.