Bon Jovi at 30: Even with a new CD, the band holds on to what it's got
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When the lights go down Thursday night at Consol Energy Center, fans will be treated to two-plus hours of their favorite Bon Jovi songs, along with a handful from an album they've yet to hear.
"What About Now," the first new Bon Jovi record in four years, doesn't arrive until March 26, so it will be an adventure for both the band and its fans to see how the songs are received.
"It's the first time we've ever done this," guitarist Richie Sambora says during a recent teleconference. "In the band's existence, it's the first time we've ever actually toured before we put a record out, so I guess we're going to find out."
When veteran bands venture into new material, even new material that's already been released, the norm is for fans to use that time as a bathroom break. The guitarist isn't losing sleep over it.
"They don't go away," he says, then stops. "I mean, geez, I don't know. A lot of times, it depends on their age. Some people gotta go more often than others. Can't blame 'em."
So far, the one taste fans have of the new album is the single "Because We Can," a formula Bon Jovi rocker with an upbeat vibe and a bright, shout-along chorus. The song was written, in part, as a kind of rallying cry for a world going through a tough spell.
"Our last tour," he says, "was about 52 countries and the different economic situations that were happening all over the world, and how people were, more importantly, reacting to them personally -- we started feeling those undercurrents all the way back then.
"In our particular fashion, just having a very optimistic outlook in the songs is always very important. ... 'Because We Can' is a song of inclusion and also if you can help somebody, you should try to do it because you can. And sometimes it takes a village and that's because we can."
Formed in New Jersey in 1983, Bon Jovi entered the world as an pop-metal band scoring early hits like "Runaway," "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer." Unlike many a long-lost "hair metal" band, Bon Jovi maintained its popularity, largely on the force of its charismatic and ageless frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, a onetime member of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World."
By adjusting its sound slightly as it got older, the band has achieved the rare feat of scoring hits in three decades.
"We have a special magic cube that says how to produce stuff in every decade," says keyboardist David Bryan.
"We ask the Ouija board," the guitarist interjects.
"Yes, we have the rock 'n' roll Ouija board," Mr. Bryan continues.
"No, you just listen to the radio, you see what's around you, and then ... we always have our own voice, we've had our own voice for many years and it's the next level for us," he says of "What About Now." "So, I think the lyrics encompass what's happening when it's written, like a snapshot of that time, and the sounds are stuff that we just keep trying to push forward in new ways."
"What it really sounds like is us, I think, at the end of the day," Mr. Sambora says. "I mean, a band like us that's been around for almost 30 years now, we're not going chasing anything down but ourselves."
During the band's downtime, it wasn't all downtime for the individual members. The singer was busy being Jon Bon Jovi. Along with his charitable work and other ventures, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for the song "Not Running Anymore" from the movie "Stand Up Guys." Mr. Sambora recorded and toured his third solo album, "Aftermath of the Lowdown," which he describes as "a very, very candid album and a very, very authentic album."
No one did bigger things than the keyboardist, who won four Tony Awards for co-writing the Broadway production "Memphis."
"Yes, now they have to call me Mister," he says with a laugh.
"How many people get four Tonys?" enthuses drummer Tico Torres. "How many people get one Tony? How many people can get a play on Broadway, for that matter? Geez, man."
"Everybody's got their own individual process that they go through, and it really, really adds to what happens in the band," Mr. Sambora says.
"What About Now" coincides with the band's 30th anniversary -- a milestone that's generally cause for a big to-do -- but Bon Jovi didn't brand it that way.
"We never thought of it," Mr. Sambora says.
"Yeah, it's really true," Mr. Bryan says. "It just kind of fell on that particular portion of our existence as a band. I don't think anybody's thinking that this is some kind of finite beginning or end at that point."
How the band is able to persevere through so many eruptions in pop music isn't any big mystery to them.
"We're musicians and we love to play and make music," Mr. Bryan says. "And with every album we get better and with every tour we get better, and it's fun, and we just keep going. I guess now, really, the Rolling Stones are the gate, so I guess we've got till 70-something, so we've got another couple years there. And uh, we just keep going on."
First Published February 20, 2013 12:00 am