The Encore Drive-In Nights concert experience continues as the coronavirus pandemic, though seemingly a light at the end of the tunnel flickers, keeps live shows on hold for a little while longer and brings in Bon Jovi as the latest big-name act to record a concert and release exclusively to drive-in theaters around the country.
Bon Jovi performed for nearly an hour and 45 minutes, delivering a 19-song set list recorded at the Paramount Theatre in New Jersey and broadcast on Saturday to sold-out crowds as many drive-ins added a second showing that aired at midnight. Another well-produced, well-shot and excellent audio concert film gave concert-goers a real treat as the evening indeed felt much like a concert. Fans all-around – even if in their cars or on lawn chairs – of course no pyrotechnics, stage effects or other enhancements that serve to liven the in-person experience, but you got a real taste of seeing Bon Jovi live even if the band wasn’t actually lighting up the stage in 3D.
Unfortunately, you also heard first-hand that singer Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the vocals he once had which often proved a distraction from an otherwise well-performed concert by Bon Jovi, the band. Ironically, the best songs of the evening were the five played off Bon Jovi’s latest album 2020 but overall everything else sounded off key and/or off pitch with an inconsistent timbre.
Bon Jovi Drive-In Concert Review
Bon Jovi opened the show with their latest in “Beautiful Drug” followed by “Do What You Can” both off 2020 and showing an effective lower range. But “You Give Love a Bad Name” hardly measured up to this classic off 1986’s Slipper When Wet. “Born to Be My Baby” was a bit better and the melodic “Limitless” off the new album, again, showed vocal effectiveness but the difference between recent releases and the older hits was quickly evident.
The new songs that worked well indicate an appropriate arrangement of the music to fit with current Bon Jovi’s vocal range. “Roller Coaster” off 2016’s This House Is Not For Sale and new cut “Let It Rain” both bested the album versions while the band killed it in an excellent and memorable performance for the otherwise sappy “The Story of Love.” Conversely, the great rock anthem “Bad Medicine” fell apart completely with barely any of its original melodic intent, and similar fates doomed the classics in “Have a Nice Day,” It’s My Life,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
Everything else from “Keep the Faith” off the album of the same name and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” to “We Weren’t Born to Follow” from 2009’s The Circle and “Lost Highway” suffered a bit from the missing registers but given enough time you could probably get used to the difference. Musically, Bon Jovi (the band) was on point as Phil X who replaced longtime guitarist Richie Sambora in 2013 took most of the lead guitar solos but traded back and forth effectively with John Shanks. Both laid down some solid shredders especially for “I’ll Be There for You,” “The Story of Love” and “Born to Be My Baby.”
Bon Jovi (the man) meanwhile played guitar on just a few songs which suited him better to have something to hold rather than the random sometimes off-putting hand gesticulating or those times he stood stiff, straight as a board, like he was performing in a singing competition. Geddy Lee, Roger Daltrey and even James Hetfield have vocally-aged gracefully, so, keep the faith, Bon Jovi still has some vocal command but down tuning everyone else seems like a good first step.
Bon Jovi Drive-In Concert Set List:
- Beautiful Drug
- Do What You Can
- You Give Love a Bad Name
- Born to be My Baby
- We Weren’t Born to Follow
- Roller Coaster
- Lost Highway
- Who Says You Can’t Go Home
- Let It Rain
- It’s My Life
- The Story of Love
- I’ll Be There for You
- This House Is Not For Sale
- Have a Nice Day
- Keep the Faith
- Bad Medicine
- Livin’ On a Prayer
- Wanted Dead or Alive
The Encore Drive-In Nights Experience
The Encore Drive-In Nights event offers a different, if not unique, experience especially for those unwilling or unable to pay for the prices concert tickets demand.
The waiting time however feels more like catching a flight than the time in vestment required of your typical concert. I was in line 45 minutes before the gates opened which had me inside within 10 minutes and excellent choices for a parking spot. Then I waited in the car for 2 1/2 hours before the show started.
A place exists for the Encore Drive-In Nights concert experience. It’s not for every body, of course, but to keep it solvent, I think promoters need some necessary tweaks to eliminate what amounts to a six hour time investment for a 90 minute or so show.