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Once upon a time there was this kid named Jon Bongiovi. He formed a band and named it after a simplified spelling of his last name. Little did he know its jam sessions would end up making millions of bucks and gaining legions of fans.

After opening guitar virtuoso/band leader Steve Vai warmed the crowd with blistering blues, jazz and rock instrumentals, Bon Jovi, the band that paved the way for the hard-rock hair movement during the 1980s, rocked the night. The near-capacity mixed crowd stood and screamed for 2 1/2 hours while songs from six of its eight albums poured from the speakers.Forget the adolescent poofy hair that once graced this band - featuring lead singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and bassist Alec John Such's replacement Hugh McDonald. Last night the band tried on the "classic rock" persona and tailored it to fit.

In fact, the band went so far to open the show with a loyal rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," which led to "Hey, God," from the new album "These Days."

Torres battered out a solid foundation, while Sambora, dressed in his black riding duster, precisely nailed out his lead and fills. Bryan and McDonald pumped out the melodies just before vocal-man Bon Jovi greeted the screaming crowd.

From then, each song was emphasized by a crisp mix and complementary light show.

Testing the fans' memories, singer Bon Jovi shed new light on the million-dollar single, "Livin' on a Prayer," from the breakthrough album "Slippery When Wet," with an a cappella intro before the band jumped in. "You Give Love a Bad Name" followed close behind as the crowd sang along.

McDonald then rumbled out the syncopated basslines to "Keep the Faith" while a very lean Torres shook the seats (and grass) with a heavy accented backbeat. And, keeping with its tough-boys-need-lovin' persona, the band didn't forget the power ballads. The title cut from "These Days," a thinking commentary about the loss of innocence, and the teary-eyed storyline of "Lie to Me" filtered out of the speakers. Though the selections were a little predictable, they worked and the crowd ate them up.

The jamming continued with a back-porch acoustic jam of "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" just before another new song, "Something for the Pain" - which featured Bryan on the accordion - ripped through the system.

"Damned," "Blaze of Glory" and the gospelesque "Lay Your Hands on Me" mixed well with the "Sleep When I'm Dead" medley that spotlighted choruses from the Isley Brothers' "Shout," the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and Bon Jovi's own "Bad Medicine." A huge inflated, devilish Elvis and a buxom, dancing Chicken grooved to the tunes near the side-stage video screens.

The heartfelt "Always" opened the first encore, which scored with "Dead or Alive" and a half-acoustic version of "Blood on Blood," while encore No. 2 worked in a swinging remake of Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help From My Friends." The band made its exit with the lullaby ballad "This Ain't a Love Song."

Interestingly, the band avoided its first glam-laden hit "Runaway" and anything from the second album, "7,800 Fahrenheit." But thinking back, it all seems logical. Last night, Bon Jovi grew up.