It Happened Last Night: Bon Jovi and the Teleprompter

Apparently the video device is not just for heads of state

Last night, on the occasion of his 49th birthday, Jon Bon Jovi gave a rousing performance in front of a way beyond sold out room at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. He played all of his hits, he played them quite well—which is to say that he played them exactly the way they sound on the Bon Jovi Greatest Hits CD he released last November, which is the same way he played them at every other show on every other tour in recent memory—and the crowd roared in thunderous appreciation.

But did it bother anybody else that the man used a teleprompter? Sorry, make that four teleprompters. At least.

[SIGNUP]As soon as the lights went down at 8:30 p.m. last night, to the sound of 20,000-plus people screaming like it was the Rapture, the first thing I noticed from my nosebleed seat behind the stage (note that when they market a show as “360-degree end stage”, this means that you might be sitting behind Jon Bon’s cute butt), were the video screens displaying the scrolling words to “It’s My Life,” placed so that no matter where he decided to sprint to on stage, he’d have a clear view of the lyrics he wrote.

Now, the use of the teleprompter throughout the show wasn’t as shocking as Motown legend Diana Ross lip-syncing at the Borgata or a decrepit Roger Waters using pre-recorded music and vocal tracks in his extraordinary 2010 staging of The Wall.

And teleprompters aren’t anything new outside of the State of the Union spectrum. An elderly Frank Sinatra made use of one, as did the heroin-addled Jerry Garcia. And scatterbrained Bob Dylan. And crazies Axl Rose and Brian Wilson.

But Jon Bon Jovi is a young, sober, perfectly sane man who should be able to remember the words without prompting, don’t you think? Sing it with me, Jon: Take my hand, and we’ll make it, I swearrrr / Whooah, livin’ on a prayer… Livin’ on a prayer. It’s not that hard.

Granted, I am 13 years his junior (don’t worry, Jon, you’re still a whole lot better looking) but I can damn well sing “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” perfectly from beginning to end every time. I could even do it after a few beers. Or several. And I’m not the one who wrote the song. And I’m not the one who has performed it thousands of times and made tens of millions off of doing so in scores of cities the world over.

Okay, so it’s not exactly a crime against humanity. I’ll give you that. And no, it’s not going to stop me from holding up my Bic during “Bed of Roses.”

But it is illustrative of the real problem here, which is this: the predictability of so-called “Rock and Roll.” Gone are the wild days of sex, drugs, decimated hotel rooms, and, you know, that old concept known as creativity. Instead, Bon Jovi is to the music scene what Olive Garden and Applebee’s are to restaurants, what Dan Brown and Jackie Collins are to the literary world. And that’s a shame.