Jon Bon Jovi and the Kings of Suburbia's Debut Show - Hard Rock Live, Hollywood - July 26

Better than: The pizza we munched on during the show.

See also:
Our taste test of Bon Jovi's family pasta sauce, Bongiovi
Photos from the Bon Jovi and Kings of Suburbia show

One word to describe Jon Bon Jovi's solo debut with the Kings of Suburbia: jazzy. Another word to describe it: bluesy. Yet another: weird old man music. Wait, that's four words. Either way, we're going with it. Jazzy, bluesy, weird old man music.

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We kinda should have known what to expect of JBJ's debut with the band Kings of Suburbia after eyeing the well-maintained crowd. It was middle class, shimmery, and very blond. Also, the name "Kings of Suburbia"... You know, clues.

When you think of JBJ, you think of rock 'n' roll. Well, pop rock 'n' roll, the yummy, amped-up stuff of the '80s. With "It's My Life," he got more pop than rock, and his hair began to look less like Cher's and more like Hillary Clinton's. Then, we thought, well everyone's gotta age. But it is possible to age and still rock. With this new backing band, there was no rock. Nothing heavy. Not much but jazzy covers and original Bon Jovi hits played at odd tempos.

That said, Jon Bon Jovi is legitimately one of the handsomest old dudes ever, and his mop would be impressive on a 15-year-old. He puts Bieber and all of the Jonas Brothers to shame with those thick, bouncing tresses. And he's, of course, still a great performer.

Jon (we'll call him that to distinguish him from his usual band that shares his last name) stepped out on the stage, all cool with aviators and a denim American-flag buttoned-down shirt. He started with what we're almost sure was a cover of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star," except it didn't sound anything like the Byrds' version. He was backed vocally by both soulful ladies and white guitar dudes and instrumentally by a full band.

He said, "Show me what you've, got sister," all sexy-like, before breaking into "You Give Love a Bad Name." All the blond ladies got on their heeled feet, singing the last lines of the song loudly and without Jon's assistance.

Jon danced about like a dork. He charmed the audience, joking that he saw trouble in them, then adding "not really." He announced that there are a lot of pretty girls in South Florida. This led, of course to "Pretty Woman." Jon's aviators came off, presumably to show respect to Roy Orbison (RIP)? He sang, "Are you lonely, just like me?" Why yes, Jon, we are. How'd you know? Your hair looks great, BTW!

But a problem started during "Pretty Woman." That problem was that Jon acted out the lyrics. When he sang "What do I see?" he put his hand to his forehead as if looking out onto the ocean, protecting his eyes from the sun, looking for a ship on the horizon.

Just when we were like, eh, maybe not that lonely, he got all horny again. "Strap yourselves in; I'm gonna take you all the way home," Jon lured us back in. He announced that Bon Jovi is all good, they're working on an album, but after being home for a year, his wife wanted him out of the house (No shit, 'cause you're becoming a boring old fart! Just kidding. Call us!). Hence the tour. He asked us to trust him and warned us of more covers to come. It seemed he was seeking our approval, and the crowd gave it to him.

The show was uneven. "Livin' on a Prayer" was too slow. It's a rock anthem, for fuck's sake! Play it as such, JON. But then "Dead or Alive" sounded really kind of great with the full band. The lowest moment was when Jon performed "Under Pressure." A word to the wise: Never cover Bowie.

Jon wasn't the only singer that night to get center stage. His backup singer, whom he called Miss Leah or something, sang all of "Chain of Fools." She was cute but no Aretha. Later, his guitarist performed "Baba O'Riley" while battling it out with a chick on a violin. It seemed most of the selections were good sing-along songs, and people sang along.

Jon said things like, in the beginning there was Adam and Eve, "Man is weak; God created women to keep us morons in line most of the time." He chuckled evilly, asking all those white ladies in the crowd if anyone was interested in someone slightly used. If so, apparently he's your man. They were down for something used.

Then it happened.

He played "Shout."

Suddenly, it was as if we were transported to a well-funded bar mitzvah. He asked, "Are you with me or not?" We weren't, but they all were. Waving their hands all in the air. Guess he knows his demographic and we don't.

For the encore, the former rocker came out in a T with the arms cut off, lookin' good. He sang a decent rendition of "Hallelujah" and then an overly jazzed-out version of Wilson Pickett's "634-5789."

He seemed trepidatious about the whole new-band thing. But just as his audience has changed from the grubby feathered-hair teens of yesteryear, so has Jon Bon Jovi. (The) one (other) disappointed crowd member noted that the show reminded her of when Rod Stewart started covering songs from The Great American Songbook. It would be sad if Jon sauntered down that road.

As far as we're concerned, he can keep this schtick, 'cause it'll work for him as he becomes older and older, but only as long as he agrees to still play "Never Say Goodbye" with Richie Sambora every once in awhile, and with the full range of power-ballad emotions.

He's definitely still got some rock in him yet, whether he's bringing it on this tour, and that allows us to keep the JBJ faith.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I saw JBJ and Richie Sambora perform at a rally for Al Gore the night before the 2000 election, and they, alone onstage, rocked. They were great! And when Jon Bon Jovi got up next to all those other really famous people supporting poor Gore, his buns looked awesome. He performed with Stevie Wonder and Deborah Cox -- they covered all the fan bases that night on the sands of South Beach. It was one of the best nights ever, right before one of the worst.

The crowd: Seriously, my brown hair made me look like the most "ethnic" person in the place. There were like maybe 20 guys who were wearing new Bon Jovi band T's along with their legions of children. All of them showed up in the slideshow.

Set List
The Byrds - "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star"
"You Give Love a Bad Name"
J. Geils Band - "Houseparty"
Roy Orbison - "Pretty Woman"
"Lost Highway"
"Chain of Fools"
"I'm Your Man"
"Bad Medicine"
The Isley Brothers - "Shout"

Rolling Stones - "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)"
"We Weren't Born to Follow"
"Livin' on a Prayer"
"Dead or Alive"
David Bowie and Queen - "Under Pressure"
Rolling Stones - "Sympathy for the Devil"
The Who - "Baba O'Riley"
The Box Tops - "The Letter"
"Who Says You Can't Go Home"

Leonard Cohen - "Hallelujah"
Wilson Pickett - "634-5789"

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