I was quite frankly intrigued by a concert review that came out yesterday about Jon Bon Jovi. Specifically, the reviewer questioned the ability of Bon Jovi’s vocal skills to continue to give his own tunes justice. The report came from a credible source at NJ.com, a “friendly” media outlet which would (or should) be predictably deferential to Bon Jovi since they both call “the Garden State” home. At first, I mistook the report to say that Bon Jovi is completely done but in fairness, it doesn’t say that. Instead, the author–almost apologetically–criticizes Bon Jovi apparently out of obligation; an obligation that I, as a fellow journalist, can relate to. Simply put, if you are going to report, then report. Those are our marching orders as journalists. Fictional, gratuitous, or patronizing accolades really have no place in objective journalism.
However, despite that, I have several thoughts about this review. First, I have not seen Bon Jovi in concert so I cannot comment on his live vocal abilities but I have seen David Lee Roth perform and Roth is who the author uses as a measuring stick for a vocalist who can no longer hit his notes. I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that “Diamond Dave’s” vocal abilities were shot decades ago and way before Roth approached middle age too. To compare Bon Jovi to Roth now is simply not comparing “apples to apples.” The former at least tried to sing his way into his mid-life era (and he largely succeeded) whereas the latter has been too busy telling stories for the better part of two plus decades to be considered a vocalist. At times, one couldn’t tell if Roth was a comedian, talk show host, or MC for one of the best rock bands on the planet. If there is one knock on the HOF qualities of brothers Eddy and Alex Van Halen, it is their inability to identify a vocalist versus a storyteller.
I myself think a better comparison would have been to the late Brad Delp (from Boston) who sadly died at 55 (which is Bon Jovi’s current age). I saw Boston in concert before Delp’s passing and it was clear then that Delp’s range was compromised and that he could no longer hit his notes that he nailed in his youth. In fact, Delp admitted as such and as a consequence, Boston brought in Fran Cosmo to hit notes previously reached by Delp. But I knew better than to rip Delp because what he did when he was younger was simply amazing and any expectation that Delp–or anyone else for that matter–could maintain that level of vocal range into his middle years was simply unreasonable and not realistic. I–as a music consumer–knew that when I saw Boston. I didn’t expect Delp to replicate his younger days when he was in mid-life form. I felt that Delp–to some extent–earned a pass just like I thought Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) did too when he encountered vocal issues years ago. The collective body of work amassed by Delp, Elliott and others in their youth proved their point; now in mid-life–I thought–they deserved some slack.
So, outside of criticizing the comparison of Roth to Bon Jovi I wanted to be fair to all sides and basically give Bon Jovi’s fans–the real consumers here–equal say and solicit their opinion about Bon Jovi’s recent concert performances. In other words, I thought rather than criticize the author who is writing an honest review and giving his opinion to which he is entitled, that I would give the fans their say in reply. After all, there were thousands in attendance who heard what the reviewer heard so I would imagine that there should be a consensus as to whether Bon Jovi is done as a vocalist, struggling, or he just had an “off” night if he even did at that. I feel that that respect (at the very least) is due Bon Jovi for all that he has done in his career. So, fans, your thoughts? Is Bon Jovi done, was the show reviewed just an aberration or, were you happy with what you saw and heard? Perhaps most importantly, even if Bon Jovi can’t hit those more difficult notes any more, do you really care? After all, he is Jon Bon Jovi and not Superman.