In the mid-’80s a bunch of musical outlaws rode a six-string steel horse onto the charts with the arena rocker “Wanted Dead or Alive,” inspiring hardcore fans to join the Bon Jovi posse with their own tribute bands.
Wanted DOA is one of those groups. It’s been galloping into the Bon Jovi archives since 2015, and its upcoming string of Northeastern U.S. dates includes an 8 p.m. concert Friday, Feb. 22, at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.
“Our goal is to put on a performance reminiscent of the rock shows from days long gone -- sound, lights and to engage the crowd, getting them on their feet while screaming for one more,” said Reading, Mass., bassist and backing vocalist Wayne Moda. “Yes, our lead singer (Rich Figurido) looks a little like Jon (Bon Jovi), and our guitarist — in a cowboy hat — could pass for Ritchie (Sambora), but we are not trying look like the band. So you will not see us in wigs, trying to imitate the ‘80s-era group. For us it is a celebration of the music, while at the same time trying to deliver an authentic experience to all the other fans of Bon Jovi.”
There’s one No. 1 song — and talk-box distorted guitar riff — that especially revs up crowds.
“Hands down, ‘Living on a Prayer.’ It’s a crowd favorite,” said Figurido, who lives in Essex, Mass., and is charged with charismatic frontman duties for the band.
“(It) is the song that gets every person on their feet. It is so iconic and is a cross-market hit, which makes it the most recognizable and popular song by the band,” Moda added. “Because of that we play it towards the end of a set, if not the encore to really top off the show.”
Moda and Figurido came up through the ranks of Boston’s music scene and have worked together since 1990. They performed in the ‘90s cover band Mixed Nuts for almost 10 years. But more recently they returned their ‘80s roots to pay tribute to an early influence, along with drummer Steve Carter, keyboardist Brian McGravey and guitarist Kevin Herrera.
“I grew up in the thick of ‘80s hair bands, and the very first song I heard from Bon Jovi was ‘Runaway.’ It was 1984, and I remember being a freshman in high school. I was hooked from there and have been a fan ever since,” Moda said. “I’ve seen them in concert probably five times since.”
Figurido credits MTV for introducing him to classic Bon Jovi tunes and rocker attitude.
“Back when MTV played music videos, I used to watch it all the time,” he said. “That’s when I saw the video for ‘You Give Love A Bad Name.’ Then it was ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ and Living On A Prayer.’ Seeing those videos with the larger-than-life productions and well-written songs hooked me. Since then I’ve been a fan.”
Big hair and tight pants figured prominently in those music videos, but Moda said most members of Wanted DOA aren’t focused on specific fashion trends. Bon Jovi three decades later is still very active, so their music and their style has continued to evolve. (Bon Jovi’s next leg of its This House Is Not for Sale tour will bring it across the world to stops including the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Russia, Germany, Spain and Poland.)
“They have been through every era of fashion from 1984 to now. I don’t know how we could accurately represent the music to the dress,” Moda said. “It would feel funny playing modern stuff while wearing leather pants, loose shirts and bandanas. The truth is we are not trying to look or dress like Bon Jovi, though the singer has some similarities beyond his voice. For us it is more about the music, we really want to deliver the sound and energy of the early live shows.
“That’s the goal,” he said, adding, “I will say that we try to look ‘cool’ on stage!”
Still Figurido does try to do the justice to Jon Bon Jovi’s rocker vibe.
“We absolutely try to dress the part. Don’t get me wrong, we are not impersonators, but it’s important to look as close to a rock icon as we can,” Figurido said. “Presentation goes along way. I feel that’s something a lot of bands do not pay attention to. We pay more attention to the music aspect than getting too wrapped up in trying to be them. We dedicate our time and energy on replicating the Bon Jovi catalog as close to the albums as possible.”