Bon Jovi, one of rock’s most successful groups ever, has retooled their band and their sound over the years and is once again filling arenas around the world. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the naysayers. A spate of recent concert-filmed videos have gone viral, showing Jon Bon Jovi struggling to keep up with the band’s repertoire, and even some of their most diehard fans have been calling out his vocal performance.
But the band’s new Encore Drive-In Nights series, which is airing in select theaters as a way to bring live music to moviegoers during the coronavirus pandemic, has given them a chance to give audiences a taste of a Bon Jovi show without having to leave their cars. The latest installment, recorded at the Paramount Theatre in New Jersey and broadcast Saturday night, featured a 19-song set list that included hits from every decade. The audience at the drive-in, ranging from kids to grandparents, sang along enthusiastically.
The first half of the show was devoted to songs from the new album, including the title track, which features a Phil Spector-style chorus. “That’s What the Water Made Me,” a mature musing on the band’s roots, also was well-received, with the audience singing the slower verses and clapping along to the power-pop chorus.
But Jon seemed tired during “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” and his voice wavered throughout “Livin’ on a Prayer,” which may be because he’s been doing the song for so many years, and because it’s an emotional anthem for so many people. He did sound better during the final encore, though, as he belted out the rousing classic “It’s My Life.”
Jon Bon Jovi, who turns 55 on March 2, looks healthy and handsome in the video. He’s still a beloved frontman, and his reconfigured group — featuring guitarist Phil X and bassist Hugh McDonald, drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan — plays great rock.
The encore show also proved that the band hasn’t lost any of its musical magic over the decades, with the band members and their incredibly talented crew delivering a set that kept audiences on their feet. As long as the new material isn’t too heavy-handed, and as long as they can keep getting the crowd to sing along, the band has a solid future ahead of it. This is a must-see for any hard rock fan, whether you’re a diehard or just a casual listener.