Loud guitars. Leather jackets. Songs you know by heart.
That’s what’s promised at a Bon Jovi concert.
And that’s what was delivered when the Grammy-winning, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band kicked off its 2022 tour with a concert in Omaha.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say, ‘Good evening,’” Jon Bon Jovi said from the stage. “So whatcha been doing for the last few years?”
Friday’s concert at CHI Health Center Omaha was the lead off show for Bon Jovi’s tour, and if everything goes well, it will be the longest the band has played since a world tour way back in 2019. (They’ve only played a handful of one-off shows since.) That’s an eternity for a band like Bon Jovi, and they appeared rested and ready to begin their first major jaunt in years.
“We got a lot of catching up to do tonight, right?” the singer said. “I won’t waste a lot of time talking.”
And he didn’t.
From that moment, Bon Jovi launched into a 22-song set that lasted more than two hours. It was filled with highs and lows. Songs new and old. Acoustic and electric. And that blend of pop and blue collar rock that made the band endearing to so many.
Nearly 15,000 fans in the sold-out arena were there for every musical moment.
Jon Bon Jovi was, as always, the center of attention. He took the stage in black jeans and a black leather jacket accented with the stars and stripes. And as usual, he sported the same shaggy haircut — now completely white and gray — and an electric smile that can light up the whole arena.
Unfortunately, his voice isn’t quite there any more.
His voice’s heft, which carried choruses of songs like Livin’ On a Prayer and It’s My Life is now reedy. He sounds thin. There’s not a lot of tone in his voice. He can’t quite hit the notes.
Friday’s concert in Omaha isn’t the first time this has been noted. There’s speculation about his vocal troubles on Reddit, and concert reviews going back several years — notably one from his home state of New Jersey — have talked about his voice prominently.
Bon Jovi’s voice — once weighty and angsty and full of the sheer power that makes you want to throw up your arms and sing You Give Love a Bad Name — doesn’t sound the way it does on the records.
But whose does? Bon Jovi is now 60, and vanishingly few of his contemporaries sound like they used to. That said, many his age and older continue to perform but alter their tracks to suit their new voices.
Not Bon Jovi. They played them just like they always have, and luckily for Jon Bon Jovi, he had the help of six additional musicians and their considerable vocal abilities to keep him afloat.
I’m not sure anyone but me noticed. With the wall of sound provided by all the synthesizers, percussion, vocal harmonies and roaring guitar solos, it’s hard for most to pick through the cacophony.
The audience could have sung the entire setlist themselves. They certainly proved they knew the words.
Bon Jovi is one of a small subset of artists that reaches across generations, and it was apparent in Friday night’s crowd. All ages came together — often as children accompanying their parents — to shout every word to their favorite songs.
On Friday, the band worked massive hits such as You Give Love a Bad Name in with favorites such as Born to Be My Baby as well as a bevy of new material. Bon Jovi selected five songs from its latest album, “2020,” as well as a few more from the band’s last few records. Fans didn’t respond all that enthusiastically, but songs such as Do What You Can are still stuck in my head.
In the middle of the set, all seven members of the band sat near the front of the stage for an acoustic set that included American Reckoning, Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night and a version of We Don’t Run that Jon Bon Jovi said was being recorded for later broadcast in a live concert to benefit Ukraine.
Bon Jovi’s setlist ramped up in the latter half, and it featured some of the band’s most recognizable songs such as “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “Bad Medicine.”
These were the songs that fans waited for, the ones they’ve shouted at the top of their lungs at bars and backyard barbecues and could now scream at the top of their lungs in the presence of Bon Jovi.
That was the response the band was looking for, and Jon Bon Jovi was all smiles as the set came to a close.
‘Thank you for coming out,” he said “We really appreciate you.”
Kevin is the host of Pops and Hisses, a music podcast featuring artist interviews with bands you love and opinions backed by decades as an award-winning music critic, podcaster, writer and photographer. Follow Kevin on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.