Bon Jovi rocks at Prudential Center's debut

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NEWARK, N.J. -- Singing the title song from their latest album, "Lost Highway," Bon Jovi christened a glistening $380 million arena pegged as a hope to help revitalize the struggling city of Newark.

"I'm a Jersey Devil, and this is my new house," the band's frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, said Thursday night. "It looks good with all you people in it. Welcome to 'The Rock' here in Newark, N.J."

Just hours earlier, workers had put the final touches on the new Prudential Center, as they dumped dirt into planters and vacuumed a red carpet. Police patrolled the streets nearby on horseback and on foot.

Some concertgoers arrived hours before Bon Jovi took the stage for the opening-night performance, the first of 10 shows.

The downtown arena opened amid hopes that crowds attending concerts and sporting events would help revive a city whose image has been tarnished by violent crime, poverty and high unemployment.

"It's our first time in Newark," said Michelle Payne, who drove nearly two hours from South Jersey with her 16-year-old daughter, Ashley. "So far so good."

As concert time neared, Mayor Cory A. Booker walked the red carpet with Chanda Gibson, his date for the evening.

Several New Jersey celebrities soon followed, including former New York Giant Tiki Barber and several stars of HBO's "The Sopranos," including Aida Turturro and Robert Iler.

"I am a huge Jon Bon Jovi fan," Barber said. "He's a big Giants fan."

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Newark's renewal will be built by momentum and credibility.

"Not only will we get to hear Jon Bon Jovi tonight, which is always a thrill," he said, "but this is a milestone."
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