The Jets and Giants joined forces on Thursday to announce that their new home stadium will officially open with a pair of concerts on May 26th and 27th, 2010. Fittingly, the concerts will feature the Garden State's own Bon Jovi.
While anyone who has ever joined in a chorus of "Livin on a Prayer" or "Wanted Dead or Alive" knows that there's nothing wrong with the musical stylings of Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and company, but when you're talking New Jersey's native musicians they aren't the first ones that come to mind. Clearly Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes hold the top spot.
We kid, because it's obviously Bruce Springsteen, as evidenced by all the hubbub about the five shows earlier this month that represented the final musical shows at Giants Stadium. Springsteen even wrote a special song from the point of view of the stadium, which has to be a first, and his role as New Jersey's cultural ambassador would seem to make him a natural choice to inaugurate the new place with a rousing "Rosalita."
But it's not to be and the nature of Thursday's announcement makes a strong case for why Bon Jovi's a better choice. While they were setting up the details of the concert, the teams and the stadium's operating company were also announcing that they'd sealed a deal with Pepsi to become a cornerstone sponsor of the new building. Springsteen's worked pretty hard over the years to craft an image that put him in lockstep with a blue collar lifestyle, and called Giants Stadium "the last bastion of affordable sports seating" during his final show. That doesn't really jive with personal seat licences, cornerstone sponsors or the other things that will turn the new football stadium into a money printing press.
Bon Jovi's songs feature a lot of the same hardscrabble themes, but they don't have quite the same authenticity. Either by virtue of timing that had them in big hair and leather pants as hair bands swept the nation or by choice, they seem much more open to the corporatized life that Springsteen shakes his fist against. That's a perfect fit for a stadium that doesn't even have a name because they haven't been able to sell it yet. That doesn't mean those labels are correct, Springsteen played the Super Bowl this year, but you can understand why Woody Johnson and John Mara wouldn't much want to risk a speech assailing the prices they're charging on the first big night in their shiny new bauble.
Those issues aside, you've also got to take into account the nature of the bands. Springsteen's music is well-suited for a closing night, as both the tempo and lyrics of his songs are more amenable to shared emotional experiences than being shot throught the heart and assigning blame. Bon Jovi's tunes are built for parties with thousands of fists in the air screaming out lyrics. In other words, they're a good fit for a raucous opener.
All of this may have more to do with Clarence Clemons' impending spinal surgery than anything specific to the two bands, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of good explanations for Bon Jovi getting 2010's biggest Jersey concert gig.