A couple of weeks ago I got a text that said: “Have you heard the new Jovi single? The vocoders are back!”

It wasn’t wrong either. They were. “Living Proof” follows the long line of Bon Jovi singles from “Livin’ On A Prayer” to “It’s My Life” that have done it, and “Living Proof” is that song. The one that reminds you that Bon Jovi were the greatest band in the world. The one, who in the shape of “New Jersey” released the finest hard rock album ever made.

Look, I’ll never not love Bon Jovi. They were my first love. The moment I heard them as a near 11-year-old, music became mine and not anyone else’s.

Like everyone else who loved them, I have just watched the documentary on Disney. It, like any time I see the archive footage reminds me how much I love them. About how listening to  “….Prayer” was the last time I saw my mum happy before she died, about how it was played at her funeral.

So yeah, there’s history wrapped up in “Forever”, there’s love for them, there always will be but putting that aside, in 2024, are Bon Jovi still able to be relevant, still able to do it? Still writing good songs?

The answer is … sort of.

“Legendary” – the first single they released – is, well ok. A pop-infused stomper, sort of anthemic, sort of stoic, sort of blue-collar. And kind of, nearly great.

That more or less goes for the rest of it.

The acoustic-tinged “We Made It Look Easy” is the same pattern, but when JBJ sings “We were full of seventeen”, he knows, you know, we all know, it’s his song for Alec Jon Such, it’s for Richie Sambora, for all of us.

And if “…Proof” is the high-water mark here, “Waves” isn’t far behind. Mature, but not boring, and credit to Phil X as ever for being his own man on lead.“Seeds” has energy, but let’s be honest (Jovi are family to me so I’ll tell the truth, the chorus is awful, “Seeds” should never rhyme with “weeds”. Ever.

As for the rest, “Kiss The Bride” will probably be the song of choice for dads giving their daughters away, but it’s a bit too schmaltzy for me. “The People’s House” is much better, and Jon – for all the vocal struggles he courageously laid bare in the aforementioned recent film – sounds great here.

“Walls Of Jericho” is superb. You don’t have to look too hard to hear the sounds of the Jersey shore here. Springsteen is an influence, no one ever has denied that, and this is as clear as you can make it.

Nowhere near as personal as the “2020” record, “I Wrote You A Song” however is real heart-on-the-sleeve stuff, and if “Living In Paradise” follows the same path as the early tracks on the record, then fine, they do it well.

Make no mistake about it though, JBJ and the lads love music, it still burns deep. You don’t write “My First Guitar” unless you do, and the fact that everyone here is acutely aware that this can’t go on, well….forever….is right there on “Hollow Man”. Beautiful, poetic, and with the words: “What do you sing when the song’s been sung?” weighing heavy. But before it ends he adds: “I ain’t sacrificing substance for style”.

That alone is a fitting end to a record that has flashes of the old days but is never trying to compete with the decade from 1986 when they were untouchable, before or since.

Instead, this is a rock band in their 60s making the music that suits them now, and that’s ok. Look at the front cover. Jon in a reprise of his “New Jersey” jacket. They all understand the nod to history. Their legacy will go on “Forever”.

Rating 7.5/10

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