Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t want to be another wave in the ocean. He is a rock, not just another grain of sand.
And he definitely rocked Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
Because he can.
Bon Jovi made a pit stop in Anaheim as part of its “Because We Can” tour, in support of the band’s 12th album, “What About Now.” Having started in Washington, D.C., in February, the group is poised to perform across North America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
With returns to Wales and South Africa and first-time shows in Bulgaria and Poland, the tour snagged the No. 1 spot in Pollstar’s last two tour rankings, having already grossed $142.1 million.
Although it was a dank weeknight, people from Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties arrived in hordes to watch their favorite New Jersey boys live. Outside the venue, a hierarchy of bootleg gear stretched for nearly a mile, while audience members — groups of friends, couples and oversized hipster glass-toting youngsters — donned boots, parkas and jackets and sipped wine to ward off the chill.
The show began at 8:30 p.m., an hour later than anticipated, with the musicians stepping onstage amid a flurry of white and blue lights. For a few minutes, only one spot was conspicuously vacant — behind the main mic.
When Jon Bon Jovi appeared, silhouetted by a glaring spotlight, the crowd roared in approval. People popped out of their seats to accompany his opening act, “That’s What the Water Made Me.”
Once he had everyone’s attention, the guitarist and lead singer, donning an American flag jacket, said, “This ain’t television. Get out of your seats. Show me what you got.”
In the nearly 2 1/2 hours that ensued, the band thrilled viewers, who packed seats all the way up to the nosebleed section, with old and new hits, including “Raise Your Hands,” “It’s My Life,” “Runaway,” “Bad Medicine,” “Whole Lot of Leaving” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
Talking about giving love a bad name, the group’s split from longtime guitarist Richie Sambora was evidenced by the presence of Phil X, born Theofilos Xenidis, who joined the tour in Calgary, having been given only a 15-hour heads-up. His skills were evident, though, as his fingers flew over his instruments — one of which displayed an action figure in its bridge.
David Bryan, with his trademark curls, sang backing vocals and even played two keyboards at the same time, all with an expression of pure joy. Muscles rippled as drummer Tico “The Hitman” Torres rejoined his mates after undergoing emergency gall bladder surgery and an appendectomy in the span of a week.
Jon, a.k.a. John Francis Bongiovi Jr., strutted his stuff much to the audience’s pleasure, performed acoustic versions of “Thick as Thieves,” “Amen” and “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night,” and even invited a woman onstage to sing “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with him. Nearby, groups of girlfriends erupted into “She’s so lucky,” “I hate her,” “It’s not all right — it’s so not all right!”
“I’m sorry it’s raining outside, but it’s just going to be hot and sticky inside,” said the Bon Jovi frontman, who did the chicken dance and remarked, “I don’t care — I’m having too much fun.”
The fun continued with the band whipping the crowd into a frenzy with a snippet of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. As they tortured fans by wishing everyone a good night and stepping offstage, Ken Sofi, 45, of Hesperia, started a bet about the encore.
“Wanted Dead or Alive” was a sure bet for the avid hard rock fan, who has taken his wife, Michelle, to every Bon Jovi concert in Southern California since he was 24.
“It’s the one thing she does,” he quipped. “It brings me peace.”
Turns out, he guessed right — and the band also threw in “Have a Nice Day” and “Living on a Prayer.”
Mouthing “come on” and “what’s the matter,” Jon riled up the crowd and said, “I like what I see.”
To this, an older lady, vigorously waving a glow stick, replied, “So do I.”