Bon Jovi BOK Center

altWell, it took them 20 years to get back to Tulsa, but Bon Jovi finally made it back in grand fashion.  The near sell-out show was set up to be a great one, but for this reviewer it left me a little flat. 

At the risk of sounding like I am about to rip them let me do some side-barring.  I saw Bon Jovi back in it’s hey day 1986.  (Yes I am dating myself, but hey I was 6 years old)  Anyway, I may have had that time stuck in my head and built this show up more than I should have, but I will do what I can to get my point across.

First, let me start with opener Dashboard Confessional.  They are a solid band, but the sound was a little lame and it took away from what they could have done.  I left and headed to the concourse, suddenly in that change of location it sounded pretty good.  Not much to say about these melodic magicians except they did good covers of U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love)” and Bryan Adams “Summer of 69.”  Other than that I could have just showed for Bon Jovi and been fine.

Now back to my 1986 retrospective.  Upon seeing the stage my immediate thought was, “Wow, this is tiny!”  Back when, it was a huge stage and allowed for lots of theatrics and stage presence.

Now let me be up front and say I am a Bon Jovi fan, not necessarily a crazed loony, but a fan.  Earlier in the day I was listening to my iPhone on shuffle I literally kept saying, “Oh yeah! That was a great song!”  It is easy to forget just how many good songs that The Jersey Syndicate has had over the 25 plus years they have been around.  Listening to the albums I was getting pretty pumped about the show.

When the lights went out for Bon Jovi to hit the stage, that feeling of excitement hit and I was ready to be taken back and rocked.

Huge video screens drop from the rigging and start to show different words, buzz words that people are throwing around right now, there is really no sound just flashes and words that end up make a huge circle on the screen.  Okay, your album is called “The Circle” I will let you have that one.  The screen slowly lifts to show the band with JBJ, arms in the air, ready to play ring master for this show.  Jon Bon Jovi is quite possibly the Dick Clark of the rock world, he doesn’t age.  Now well into his 40’s he could have easily passed for mid 30’s.  So I have to hand it to him, the man takes care of himself.  Launching into their opener, it was apparent that the band itself is now defined as JBJ and Richie Sambora.  Tico Torres and David Bryan are there but seem to be an afterthought.  There is no showcase of their talent nor really any reference to them at all most of the night.

Second song in is “We Weren’t Born to Follow” from current album “The Circle” it has a good vibe and gets the party going well, but it is the next one that lights the fire for the night, kicking into “You Give Love A Bad Name” the magic that is Bon Jovi begins to shine.  JBJ is into his antics that only he has with hand thrust and open hand gestures that drive the crowd nuts and have him flashing that infamous smile. 

Musically, the band is tight and true.  The sound itself was a little absent at first.  You couldn’t hear the guitar solos and it was hard to pick out progression change.  (Enough of the music lesson)  By, “You Give Love” it seemed to be worked out and gave way for the band to get into their element and have fun. 

The show continued to build momentum only to be slowed and brought to a halt at times.  The staging was very cool, albeit small, with huge video screens that separated and floated all around the stage area, platforms that seemed to appear out of nowhere, spin and become video screens themselves.  The catwalk, which was circular (keeping with theme), was barely used.  We are talking about a guy who used to use high wires and immense towering catwalks all through his show and now only uses a semi-circle stage to get out to the fans.  That, to me, is just not what it is about.  All in all, it was a good show, it didn’t blow me away, but it was good.

Most of the show was projected to the center of the arena, with very few, I could count them on one hand, times given to those on the sides of the house or behind the stage.  Yes, Jon, we are all here to see you, but it would appear you were only here to see the center.

The set list was huge and played out lots of those hits I mentioned listening to on my iPhone, “Bad Medicine,” “Lost Highway,” and even Richie Sambora taking over lead vocals on “Lay Your Hands On Me” and many more.  I guess that 25 years in you can make a career now out of smiles and star power but I am not real sure that the price of the tickets in the house was justified.

You would think that if it took you 20 years to get somewhere you would leave it all on the stage once you got there.  I guess that I had built this up way too much in my head.  I just expected more from one of the few groups that made it through the Kurt Cobain driven homicide of the genre.

Ending as Dennis Miller would say, “Of course this is just my opinion, I could be wrong.” 


Photos by: Kevin Pyle

About the writer:
Ernie Osborn is a California transplant that has been around the music business much of his life. He has been in bands and currently plays guitar and sings when called upon to do so. He also writes articles in the Tulsa Speaks section entitled, “Whatever Happened To…”  check it out.