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"We've got a lot of catching up to do," singer Jon Bon Jovi told Tuesday night's sell-out crowd of 13,399 at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena, where he last performed in 2013.

But he said he wouldn't do much talking -- after all, the crowd paid good money "for me to shake my ass." The 56-year-old spent nearly two nonstop hours strutting and singing, making sure people got their dollars' worth.

Positioned behind a see-through curtain with the image of a house, the band named after and fronted by Bon Jovi opened the "This House Is Not for Sale" Tour with a peppy, if prolonged, version of the single by the same name. And then it was pretty much curtains for any kind of props or production theatrics. Though light effects flickered, the stage was set sparsely -- too simply for Bon Jovi's hair-band heritage. With no pyro, props, smoke or confetti, the focus was on sound, not spectacle.

Bon Jovi sometimes played guitar and even the maracas, but he left most of the instrumentals to keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, bassist Hugh McDonald and lead guitarist Phil X. (Guitarist Richie Sambora left in 2013, but he will be included with the band when it's inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month.)

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Photos by Isabelle Berryhill

While Bon Jovi, who strained at times, sounded relatively strong in voice, song choices frustrated. Way too much newer material was forced into the first third of the set, slowing momentum; only one song -- crowd favorite "You Give Love A Bad Name" -- predated 2007.

Much of the show's middle belonged to repetitious 2000-era hits like "It's My Life" (which sounds like "We Got It Going On," which sounds like "Have a Nice Day") at the expense of '80s power ballads like "I'll Be There for You" and "Never Say Goodbye." Longtime fans needing a hit of "Bad Medicine" had to wait until the end, while those wanting "Wanted Dead or Alive" and praying for "Livin' on a Prayer" would have to be patient for the encore. Anyone hoping for an old-school rendition of the group's first hit "Runaway" went away without.

Still, boyish Bon Jovi charmed with his smile and charisma. No one was more captivated than those seated in sections 106 and 107 where the singer -- surprise! -- crooned ballads "Amen" and "Bed of Roses" from the staircase.

Opening for Bon Jovi was Little Rock band deFrance. The five-member group performed a 20-minute set of guitar-hearty, good-time rock, with some members tossing their long locks around like Bon Jovi once did back in the day.

Call them the "hair" apparent.

Metro on 03/23/2018

Print Headline: Still shaking it at 56, Bon Jovi fills arena

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