Isn't this just a souped-up MTV-style 'Unplugged' session in wolf's clothing?
Chris Jones 2002
A bit of an oddity this one. Following on from last November's album This Left Feels Right where a slew of 'Jovi classics were stripped of their rawk garb and re-jigged as more laid back acoustic numbers, Jon, Richie and the band (and Jon's amazing hair) present us with a double DVD of the songs performed live.
For a band notorious for their soft rock acumen, this takes some getting used to. Anyone in a cynical frame of mind can't help wondering how much of this amazing 'concept' actually owes its existence to contract-filling water-treading. It's true that the material has taken on a quite different vibe with its delicate keyboards, strummed acoustics and soft brushwork on the drums. And Jon's at pains throughout to tell us how 'excited' the band were to find that the material 'stood up' on its own to the new treatment. But isn't this just a souped-up MTV-style 'Unplugged' session in wolf's clothing?
The answer is inevitably yes and no. Yes, making "You Give Love..." a jazzy shuffle doesn't give the listener much option but to compare it to Eric Clapton's career-saving unplugged version of ''Layla'' and, while the backings are often lusher than the MTV format, the radical re-versioning often means just a slowing down and cheesy substitution of pretty keyboard fills whereas before it was power that convinced. But often the band DO seem to have really thought about turning a song on its head and have done so with ingenuity. Giving ''Wanted Dead Or Alive'' a vaguely trip hop beat works beautifully while the solo piano accompaniment on ''It's My Life'' is undeniably moving.
The trouble, ultimately, is that Bon Jovi's style of writing is too often tailor-made for stadium-filling grandeur and can't help but sound a little corny in a less pompous setting. The pleasures of rocking out to this band may be guilty ones, but that's all part of the package. True fans will treasure the opportunity to see their heroes in such honest detail; they put on a polished performance no matter how hard the scrutiny, and the discs come absolutely jam-packed with tasty extras. But for casual BJ lovers this may prove too frustratingly low-key.