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Bon Jovi leaves FleetCenter fans satiated

By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 3/5/2003

When last seen, Bon Jovi was playing on the field at the Super Bowl, but it was a weird, anticlimactic moment when the game was over and the crowd was filing out. Last night, Bon Jovi was more in its element, playing to a sold-out audience of its own at the FleetCenter. Singer Jon Bon Jovi was just coming off a birthday (he turned 41 on Sunday), and he partied as if the celebration was still in full sway.

It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to know that sex appeal drives most rock 'n' roll - and Jon Bon Jovi still has it. He and his band are masters of arena-rock, but Jon himself is a master of something else, which is to drive women of all ages crazy. Racing around last night in his patented tight pants, he said provocatively, ''When you go home all sweaty and tired, you're going to say you got quite a workout with Jon Bon Jovi.''

He made good on that promise - and titillated the ladies every which way. He had a couple of clusters of women brought up to each side of the stage. One bolted out and grabbed him (and was clawed off by a security guard). Another was formally invited to dance during ''Bed of Roses,'' when Jon applied a gentle pat to her rump as the crowd went wild. Then he endeared himself more by saying, ''Some things never change: I'm still a crummy dancer.''

The overwhelming majority of the crowd was female, including one young fan who held up a sign that read, ''Hi Jon, I'm 6 and I love you.'' From 6 to 60, they all succumbed to his populist, New Jersey charm and caught a pretty good rock show in the process.

Bon Jovi perhaps played too many little-known songs from its new album, ''Bounce,'' but the group still delivered when it counted. And few acts have so many arena-tested hits, from the whomping ''You Give Love a Bad Name,'' which fired up the crowd early, to ''Livin' on a Prayer'' (with its building-wide sing-along line, ''Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear'') and ''Wanted Dead or Alive,'' featuring Jon and guitarist Richie Sambora switching to acoustic guitars to offset the show's predominantly electric sound. And another peak was ''Someday I'll Be Saturday Night,'' which Jon amended by saying, ''Someday I just might be the quarterback of the New England Patriots.'' Hammy, but effective.

The group was bolstered by a lavish light show that ran from multi-colored lasers to three large satellite dishes that turned over and served as video screens for live action and some moving footage of New York City policemen (Bon Jovi was among the first to sign up for the post-9/11 Concert for New York City). And the band received a further emotional boost because it dedicated the show to keyboardist Dave Bryan's dad, Ed, who recently passed away. He had supported the band in its early days by buying new instruments and loaning his van. As Bon Jovi proved once again, the show must go on.

The opening Goo Goo Dolls were not up to par, partly because singer Johnny Rzeznik admitted he had a hangover. Unfortunately, he sometimes sounded that way as well.