Drummer John Young of 7800 Fahrenheit has been wanting to put together a Bon Jovi tribute project for quite a few years, but one thing has always stopped him.
“That kind of singer doesn’t fall from the sky,” he said. “I know there are many other Bon Jovi tributes out there, but I can guarantee you, they don’t have the singer I have.”
7800 Fahrenheit will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township on the heels of Bon Jovi’s April 14 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The band features Young, guitarist Mike Capece, bassist Mike Senatore, keyboard player Jason Santos and aforementioned lead vocalist Jay Orrell.
“I have a fantastic singer who hits notes all night long, and I have a fantastic band with really good players,” Young said. “With that combination, it’s a good mix.”
A fan first, Young said there’s not much about Bon Jovi’s catalog he doesn’t love.
“In my opinion, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora are the second coming of Lennon and McCartney for songwriters. Everyone loves “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” but if you look at the catalog, there are so many songs that never get recognition that are so great.”
And he credits the players around him for being able to deliver that catalog with precision and emotion. Younger band members Capece and Santore bring excitement and ambition to the group, Young said, and veteran musician Santos brings instrumental and vocal depth to the band.
The group prides itself on showcasing the music, the look and the energy of “classic” Bon Jovi.
“I make most of our clothes,” Orrell said. “I make sure we look as much like Bon Jovi as we can. Nowadays, bands don’t dress up, and I am from the ’80s. We dress up, and we move around. We do costume changes.”
Orrell, who said hitting the high notes in upper-register ’80s songs always came naturally to him, said he often finds himself on “autopilot” listening to music his bandmates produce.
“Richie Sambora sang with his guitar,” Orrell said. “With Mike Capece we get all those notes. The bass holds everything down. And John is like a machine. He’s like a clock with a soul. When he plays, it sounds like Bon Jovi. It freaks me out.”
Orrell also pointed out that having fellow singers like Santos, formerly of Flaxy Morgan, in the group makes for outstanding vocal harmonies.
“We do all the key changes, all the high notes,” Orrell said. “A lot of bands throw it out to the crowd and say, ‘Here, sing this part for me.’ We sing the parts they want to sing. Being a true tribute band is paying homage and respect to your favorite band. You owe it to the band, and you owe it to the fans.”
Orrell said he’s felt the high of performing his original music for a big crowd but he thinks fronting 7800 Fahrenheit might be the most fun he’s every had onstage.
“All these guys in the band live and breathe the music,” he said. “We’re all friends and we enjoy playing together. We’re all so lucky to be able to do this, and it’s so much fun.”
Young said Orrell brings the charisma of young Jon Bon Jovi to 7800 Fahrenheit’s performances.
“We’re all about the music, because Bon Jovi is a very, very good live band,” Young said. “We try to bring out the live experience of that ‘classic’ era.”