Concert reviews: Critics miss Sambora's presence at Bon Jovi show

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Following his sudden departure from the current leg of the Bon Jovi tour last week, guitarist Richie Sambora was definitely missed by local critics at Sunday night's concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Music critics Jon Bream of the Star Tribune said singer Jon Bon Jovi "took a good 45 minutes to get warmed up" and "his 2 3/4-hour performance felt like the Jon Bon Jovi Show, not a Bon Jovi concert."

In the absence of Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi "seemed oblivious to his bandmates, treating them more like sidemen," Bream wrote. He added that it took "more than 90 minutes into the show before he even tried to connect with substitute guitarist Phil X."

Phil X wasn't completely unfamiliar with his surroundings -- he filled in for Sambora on 13 shows in 2011 when the guitarist went into rehab.

While Bream wrote that Jon Bon Jovi "was less impressive than in previous shows," the singer was "his usual charming self" as he cracked jokes about Justin Bieber and did a Mick Jagger "strutting rooster impression" in a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

Music critic Russ Raihala echoed Bream's sentiments in his Pioneer Press review, writing that, "Anyone wondering what Jon Bon Jovi's solo career might look like got an inadvertent sneak peek."

Raihala said it became apparent three songs into the concert that "this tour has only one spotlight, and it's not for drummer Tico Torres," and added "after a while, it got kind of boring watching just Jon Bon Jovi. "

The critic did note that Phil X appeared on the big screens for the crowd of 18,000 at Xcel, but "they showed only his hands playing the guitar."

Raihala added that after watching the concert for three hours, "I'm not entirely certain the man has a face."

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