I’ve written a lot of stupid things in my journalism career. I mean, a lot. I once compared high school basketball conference tournaments to foreplay before sex (Yeah, I did that.).
I once called a local high school cheerleading coach “full-figured” in a story (Yeah, I did that too. Hey, I was young and stupid.)
But of all the things I’ve written and wanted to take back, maybe this one takes the cake. In the fall of 1994, I was a sophomore at Delaware and got to Review the new Bon Jovi album, “Crossroads”, which was kind of a greatest hits album but also had some new tracks.
Now despite having been a fan of Jon Bon, Richie, Tico and the boys from New Jersey since 1986 or so, I ripped this album. I was mad that it wasn’t as good as their earlier work, and as you might expect I took lots of potshots at a band I loved and now was upset at subpar work. I really wish I could quote exactly what I said in that review, because despite my old university doing an amazing job digitally archiving issues of the student paper, somehow there’s a few weeks in October and November, 1994 that are missing.
Anyway, to paraphrase what I wrote then, I said Bon Jovi was finished. Done. No longer relevant, or interesting. Surely, I said confidently, they’d be forgotten soon and relegated to the hair band dustbin of history (can you imagine how much hairspray would be in that dustbin?)
Yeah, not so much. A quarter of a century since I wrote that, Bon Jovi is still going strong. Selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden all over the country, and still cultivating new fans and getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.
I have long regretted what I wrote and have continued to be a big fan, and finally last Thursday night I got to see the men who inspired thousands of karaoke versions of “Livin’ On a Prayer” (some by me, I proudly admit) at MSG.
I went in with very high expectations. And, well… it was a little disappointing. Some thoughts on the two-hour show, and the crowd.
— So here’s what was missing: Not just Richie Sambora, the legendary guitar player who left the band in 2013. It was the whole “big rock show” thing. There was almost no stagecraft for the show, no big screens, very little flashing lights, not much in the way of production values at all. Jon’s voice was still pretty strong, he shook his little tush for the girls in the crowd a few times, and did his thing.
But the sound was just not great. All the old, huge hits, like “Bad Medicine” and “Born To Be My Baby” were played noticeably slower, as if the band just couldn’t keep the same speed or tempo. What resulted was a bunch of fans like me and others in my section who were a second ahead of the lyrics all night. It was weird and disappointing. Maybe the current lineup just can’t keep up with the ferocious pace of the old hits.
— A few words about the fans: My goodness, it was like 1989 threw up in MSG the other night. The ripped jeans, the hairspray (Al Gore might’ve died if he’d seen and smelled it), the bleached blondes screaming, and the torn T-shirts… it was like my high school dance.
The crowd was also incredibly… white. It was like an NRA convention in there; not a person of color to be found.
— The other issue I had was Bon Jovi played so many of their newer songs that nobody knows. I’d say a quick check of the setlist revealed at least seven songs I don’t think I knew, out of 23. For a band with 40 years of material, that’s way too much.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. “Wanted Dead or Alive” and that old ditty about Tommy and Gina sounded great, and the emotional pitch Jon hit when he went into the stands on certain songs was fabulous. The guy is still a hell of an entertainer.
But overall I was disappointed. I wanted the 1980s Bon Jovi experience, which is probably an unfair thing to expect.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got 1988’s New Jersey to listen to on my iPod, and sway to “Livin In’ Sin.“
**Finally today, I hope you had a terrific Mother’s Day Sunday, that you called your mother and told her you loved her if you couldn’t be with her, that you spent some time with her if you could, and if, sadly, your mother is no longer with us, you spent some time fondly remembering her.
Instead of bringing us a warm and fuzzy sketch about Mother’s Day, “Saturday Night Live” happily brought us this from the Amy Schumer-hosted show this weekend.
This was damn, damn funny, and I think all Moms can relate.