Watch Jason Isbell Shred ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ at Jon Bon Jovi Tribute

Isbell covered the quintessential power ballad — on a double-neck guitar — at the MusiCares gala honoring the Jersey rocker

You only had to look at Jason Isbell’s silhouette to realize what song he was about to perform at the MusiCares tribute to Jon Bon Jovi on Friday night in Los Angeles. Wearing a large-brimmed hat and a long duster coat and holding — the giveaway — a double-neck guitar, it was clear “Wanted Dead or Alive” was in the cards.

Isbell acknowledged as much on Instagram on Saturday: “I think it’s pretty obvious which Bon Jovi song I did just by looking at this picture,” he wrote.

While Isbell may have resembled Richie Sambora more than JBJ, he delivered the goods, throwing himself into the lyrics about having “seen a million faces” and rocking them all without a hint of irony. Of course, Isbell can sing the phonebook, but it was the guitar solo he played that made his “Dead or Alive” such an Eighties-throwback epic.

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Jon Bon Jovi was the recipient of the MusiCares Person of the Year honor, joining past honorees like Joni Mitchell, Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, and Bruce Springsteen. His fellow New Jersey icon was also in attendance despite mourning the death of his mother just two days earlier. Springsteen and Bon Jovi joined up onstage too, performing Bon Jovi’s crossover country hit “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and Springsteen’s own “The Promised Land.”


“I want to thank my hero, my friend, my mentor Bruce Springsteen,” Bon Jovi said during his speech. “Bruce’s mom passed two days ago. When I first got the news he was already on the airplane on the way here. But he wanted to be here tonight for MusiCares. And he wanted to be here tonight for me, and I’m forever grateful to you.”

Isbell, meanwhile, will compete for three awards at Sunday night’s Grammys. He’s up for Best Americana Performance, Best American Roots Song, and Best Americana Album for his latest LP, Weathervanes.