Restrained Bon Jovi still entertains

Concert ReviewAugust 20, 2005Unknown source

Restrained Bon Jovi still entertains
Journal Sentinel pop music critic
Posted: Aug. 20, 2005
No one ever invited Courtney Love to perform at their corporate picnic.

Big Brew-Ha

Photo/Rick Wood

John Rzeznik, lead singer of The Goo Goo Dolls, sings hits from the band’s release “Live in Buffalo July 4th 2004” during a performance Saturday, with the setting sun coloring the 150th anniversary of Miller Brewing Co.’s “The Big Brew-Ha” celebration at Miller Park. The Miller Park roof was partially opened during the show and later opened for fireworks.

Photo/Rick Wood

Jon Bon Jovi performs for the crowd at Miller Park.

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When Miller Brewing Co. decided to stage its own big gig in celebration of 150 years of America reaching for a cold one, it was no surprise the beer giant invited three of pop music's most reliable - and reliably mainstream - acts. Performing for roughly 5,000 Miller employees and another 30,000 or so ticket-winning members of the public, Bon Jovi and friends played it safe Saturday at Miller Park.

Jon Bon Jovi likened his band's headlining gig to "pre-season," and with good reason. The band won't be going on the road formally until later this year, following the release of its next studio album, "Have A Nice Day," in September.

Saturday's one-off at Miller Park did have the feel of New Jersey's rock ace warming up in the bullpen, with the front man toning his stage energy down a notch from previous Milwaukee appearances.

Of course, even a restrained performance was hitting one out of the park as far as the adoring crowd was concerned. Flashing his blindingly white teeth and pointing at the camera right on cue during "You Give Love a Bad Name," Bon Jovi was a consummate rock 'n' roll showman.

The singer hasn't forgotten his working class roots - or the people who helped him to the top of the rock pile, either. Early in the set, between "Radio Saved My Life Tonight" and "It's My Life," with its bittersweet "I ain't gonna live forever" chorus, Bon Jovi gave a pointed shout-out to the late and lamented WLZR (102.9-FM).

Guitarist and co-songwriter Richie Sambora took his turn in the spotlight, providing lead vocals for a stripped-down reworking of "I'll Be There For You," but there's a reason the band is called Bon Jovi and not Sambora.

The blond mike-stud dominated the stage nearly every moment of the 90-minute set, from the opener, '80s classic "Livin' on a Prayer" and a sampling of the upcoming disc to the iconic pop-metal hit "Wanted Dead or Alive," performed as an encore.

The Goo Goo Dolls' midbill performance was a greatest hits parade that showcased the act's melodic brand of jangly, guitar-driven tunes. Looking like Jon Bon Jovi's upstate New York cousin in ripped jeans and flawlessly highlighted, floppy hair, front Goo Johnny Rzeznik led a willing crowd through most of the band's radio hits, including "Slide," "Name" and "Iris," as well as "What a Scene," "Black Balloon" and a slightly heavier take on "Broadway."

Back in Milwaukee for the second time this summer, Robert Randolph and the Family Band opened the show with a 45-minute set that included the potential beer ad campaign anthem "So Refreshing" and an amped-up instrumental cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."