Saddledome, Calgary - July 14, 2010

LISA WILTON - QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

CALGARY - Time has not been kind to many of the pop-metal acts who hogged the charts in the 1980s.

Those who haven't broken up are headlining casinos or have found themselves playing the same club circuit they started out in.

Not so for Bon Jovi.

The New Jersey quartet's career may have had some low ebbs, but these days the band is one of the top-grossing touring acts on the planet.

The band's latest trek has already raked in more than $50 million this year -- not surprising given almost every stop on Bon Jovi's The Circle Tour has sold out.

That includes Wednesday's Saddledome spectacle, which saw more than 16,000 fans pack into the front, the sides, the nosebleeds and even behind the stage to hear Mr. Jon Bongiovi belt out old faves and new tracks from the band's latest album, The Circle.

The secret to Bon Jovi's success may have to do with the fact they have never, ever been trendy.

Or too clever. Or too sophisticated.

Which is just fine for the group's legions of fans -- many of whom have followed the band since its self-titled debut in 1984.

There was a nary an American Apparel outfit in sight.

Instead, concert-goers were in the Stampede spirit, donning cowboy hats and checkered shirts and whooping it up to the band that was the soundtrack to many a fan's high school years.

Bon Jovi's hard-edged riff rock has changed only slightly over the years -- a dash of country here and there a splash of pop there -- with lyrics that are earnest enough to connect with audiences who don't mind the odd cornball sentiment.

There was quite a bit of corn and a wee bit of cheese during Wednesday night's show, but there were very few in the audience who would complain.

Though there was a large contingent of middle-aged women -- some of whom were dressed in rather revealing and, ahem, age-inappropriate wear -- there was also an impressive number of younger people who sang along to the band's earlier hits, including You Give Love a Bad Name from its multi-platinum 1986 breakthrough, Slippery When Wet.

The crowd exploded when the singer stepped up to the mic and sang, "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame..." prompting Bon Jovi's excited fans to finish the line for him.

As much as they loved it, you could tell Jon B has had quite enough of the song for one lifetime.

He humoured the crowd, but sang it like he was at a karaoke bar.

The energy waned a few times during the first half-hour of the show when Bon Jovi revisited tracks from its country-tinged 2007 album, Lost Highway.

People wanted the hits --and the band gave it to them -- but Jon Bon Jovi looked more comfortable and energized when playing newer, less popular material.

The band -- including guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres -- sounded as good as you would think a well-oiled, veteran rock band would sound on stage.

They were joined by an extra guitar player and bassist who amped up the sound nicely.

With so many familiar songs and an already enamoured audience, Bon Jovi had no need for a fancy light show or pyrotechnics of any sort.

A few risers and a couple of video screens did the trick.

Jon Bon Jovi kept his banter to a minimum, but when he addressed the crowd he was greeted with screams and possibly a sigh or two.

"Calgary!! How you feeling?! We're Zoo Lion!"

And with that boisterous introduction, Calgary's Zoo Lion -- who won a CJAY 92 competition to open for Bon Jovi -- began the biggest show of their career.

The band's groove-laden mainstream rock seemed to go over well with the thousands of Bon Jovi fans already in their seats.

Singer Craig Aikman's straining, raspy vocals even has shades of Jon Bon Jovi.

Zoo Lion knew this was an opportunity they couldn't screw up and they made the most of being on the huge stage.


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