Immediately after performing “Runaway,” a song released 33 years ago, Jon Bon Jovi made a confession to the Pittsburgh crowd gathered at PPG Paints Arena on a Wednesday evening.
“I think I’m singing like shit tonight and I apologize,” he said, promising his fans he would keep “pushin’ on,” and adding “if you stick it out with me, I’ll stick it out with you.”
And that’s sort of how it has been for those of us who grew up with Bon Jovi, hasn’t it? His music was part of the soundtrack to our youth, the backdrop to everything from our first loves to our last slow dance at the prom. To prove it, there was an entire arena on Wednesday night full of Gen Xers who, intentionally or not, seemed to be throwbacks to the 80s with mullets and big hair and clad in Slippery When Wet concert t-shirts from 1987 and clutching cans of beer while unabashedly belting out every single word to the likes of “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Lay Your Hands On Me.”
Same as it ever was.
At first I thought Jon’s admission that he had been battling a cold since Saturday was simply concert shtick or, perhaps, a clever intro to “Bad Medicine.” I still thought that when he brought a fan up from the audience to help out on “Born to Be My Baby.”
But when he walked over to the edge of the stage and recited Prince’s infamous, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” — that’s when I admit to feeling a little freaked out and unsettled. Here’s yet another rock icon of my youth saying he’s not feeling well and invoking the words of another who died way too young and reminding us of our own mortality and his. My generation doesn’t need any more reminders of the fragility of life, that we’re getting older and that, personally speaking at 48, more years are likely to be in the rear-view mirror than down the road.
Whoa, we’re halfway there, whoa, livin’ on a prayer …
On Bon Jovi’s new album “This House is Not For Sale,” one of the tracks is called “God Bless This Mess.” I think it kind of puts into context this phase of life and how we’re starting to feel its effects.
“My voice is shot, I’m going grey, these muscles all ache
Don’t cry for me, I’m the life of the party
I’m smiling most of the time
I may be gritting my teeth, can’t get back where we started
These days I’m doing just fine.”
The song has been frequently included on this tour’s setlist, but we didn’t get to hear it in Pittsburgh because as the world knows by now, the Pittsburgh show was abruptly cut short — 90 minutes into what would have been a two and a half hour performance — and with no rousing encore. It’s a decision that has some expressing frustration, mostly via social media temper tantrums, about getting an abbreviated version of the show.
To which I say, get yourself a fucking life. If you’re complaining about something as trivial as being “cheated” out of sixty minutes of a concert — during a week when innocent people were gassed to death in a unfathomable literal hell on earth — then check your privilege at the door, thank you. Sure, it’s disappointing to not get something you expected. But there is nothing that comes with a guarantee in life. Nothing.
And that’s what Bon Jovi’s songs are all about. They remind us to enjoy that moment, that guy, that girl, that kiss, that night, that time, that love. I went to the show with my 15 year old daughter and we danced our asses off and sang at the top of our lungs. We had a great time, enjoying every moment. For the record, I thought Jon sounded fantastic and his performance was great. My girl loved it and said it was one of the best nights of her life.
“Take my hand,” I said, as we crossed a busy street to get back to our car.
We looked at each other. “We’ll make it, I swear!” we sang.
We remember how we were, once upon a time, not so long ago. We take nothing for granted, holding on to what we’ve got. These days, we’re all living on a prayer.
Thanks for a great show, Jon. Get well soon.