Eye For Film >> Movies >> Bon Jovi Live: This Left Feels Right (2003) Film Review
You have to hand it to Bon Jovi. When their record label said something along the lines of, "Hey guys, you've been around for 20 years, must be time we released a Greatest Hits album," they could have taken the easy option and gone right ahead. Seemingly, however, they went one better and produced the album This Left Feels Right, which offers a complete "unplugged" reworking of most of their classic hits.
They decided not to tour the album, so this DVD - shot in the somewhat unlikely setting of the Borgata Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, last November - is the closest most will come to seeing these songs in a live arena.
Initially, the setting is a bit disconcerting. Can this really be the same band, synonymous with Stadium Rahck and catchy anthems, in a casino hall, holding just 2000? Yes, it can, and if there is one thing this DVD has going for it, it's intimacy. With the trappings of the stadium taken away, this is cosy Bon Jovi, in lovely soft suede, with barely a whiff of leather in evidence. But the real question is, does it work?
The answer is, yes and no. Some of the songs feel completely different in their reworked form and come over just as well, such as the Eastern-influenced retelling of Lay Your Hands On Me, a satisfyingly bluesy version of You Give Love A Bad Name and Keep The Faith, with Everyday actually sounding better than the original. Other tracks don't fare quite so well, however, with It's My Life rendered dull and listless when stripped of rock, while Wanted Dead Or Alive suffers from the use of a deliberate distorting of the vocal. Bad Medicine is rendered exactly that - bad. It's just too slow here, making it sound discordant and rambling. On the plus side, however, the new material, Last Man Standing - a not-at-all-veiled attack on the modern music biz - and Thief Of Hearts are great, although a veil must quickly be drawn over their decision to do a cover version of Dr Hook's Sylvia's Mother.
So that's the music, what about the performance? The biggest problem is that Jon Bon Jovi never looks completely at ease. Deprived of the bouncing up and down and careering about on stage, which the rock versions of the band's anthems demand, he looks rather forlorn, like an animal outside his natural habitat. While a city tom cat can survive in the woods, he stills look out of place, somehow. When Jon has a guitar in hand, he copes well with the switch to this lower-keyed environment, but on the numbers in which he doesn't play he often seems unsure of what to do and, on occasion, comes so parlously close to "dad dancing" that you wonder when he got so old. The banter is at its best when Jon and Richie - the band's guitarist whom Jon hails as the "essence of the record" on the bonus disc - play at being Sinatra and Dino, perfect for the casino setting.
This album is daring and interesting. There is enough rock influence to keep fans happy, while the vastly different instrumentals used may well convert others to their cause. Whatever its failings, there are also several triumphs and at least Bon Jovi have dared to rock the system.
We should all applaud.Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2004