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January 16, 2006

Vets Bon Jovi still having fun

Meanwhile, the album's second single, Who Says You Can't Go Home, has been donated by Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora to a New Jersey tourism spring ad campaign -- although there is some dispute from the publisher, which wants $175,000 US for it.

Vets Bon Jovi still having fun

After more than 20 years together, these Jersey rockers are having the time of their lives: An exclusive chat with frontman Jon Bon Jovi
By JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun

Not many rock bands, more than two decades into their career, can celebrate the release of one of their most successful albums and fastest-selling tours.

And of all the groups, who would have thought such longevity would be enjoyed by Bon Jovi?

The New Jersey rockers' latest disc, Have A Nice Day, debuted at No.1 in this country (and several others) when it was released last September. It also gave the band the highest first-week sales of their 22-year career in Canada and the U.S.

"I guess people like the songs," the band's frontman and lead singer, 43-year-old Jon Bon Jovi, says down the line from Los Angeles in a Toronto newspaper exclusive with the Sun.

"You know, it's that kind of idea that they keep coming back because of the songs. I don't know. It's a phenomenon to us too. We're real pleased. That's all I can say."

On top of that, Bon Jovi have sold out a stunning four nights at the Air Canada Centre, beginning Saturday night (Jan. 21, 23-24, 30). The first three shows sold out in less than 15 minutes.

Even band leader Bon Jovi, whose group recently passed the 100-million worldwide sales mark, is impressed.

"Look, we're not taking it for granted," says Bon Jovi, on his way to begin shooting an episode of The West Wing (see sidebar).

"I'm not going to pretend to not be excited about it. But, in all honesty, we're selling (out) two, three and four nights (in many markets), and it's the kind of thing if there were more days in the schedule, we would (add shows). I can't. So it's really great that we could find the four nights in Toronto.

"It's really humbling to do what you love to do and do it at the level that we do it at," he says. "It's not nostalgia and it's not rehashed reunion or anything silly, you know what I mean? We've had our ups and downs, mind you, but in the grand scheme of things, it's been very positive.

"It's great to know that (we've gone) from the El Mocambo, our first time there (in January 1984), to (now playing) four nights at the arena. I have a lot of great memories of Toronto.The first movie I ever did was there (Moonlight And Valentino). Playing places like the Mocambo -- when you think about the Stones having been there, great memories of that kind of stuff, and then coming back there now 20-plus years later and still having that kind of feeling for the place -- it's great, it's fabulous. I'm humbled and grateful. I've played there a bunch but never four nights."

The Have A Nice Day tour involves a dozen trucks and a road crew of 100, so expect a big production with an audience participation section where "there'll be, no exaggeration, 200 people up on the stage during a portion of the show where they are invited to come and sit up there," Bon Jovi says.

Bon Jovi also expects the set list for Toronto to have changed from the first leg of the tour, which launched last November in Chicago. The second North American leg began last night in Oklahoma City.

"No, we never play the same show," he says. "But ... it's a bit of an interesting question because as I'm about to start the second leg, I'm ready to dramatically change the show. But, you take the city of Toronto, they haven't seen it yet."

One major change for Bon Jovi on this tour is that he has become Internet savvy when it comes to the band's organized fans.

"I can tell you that honestly, for the first time in my life, I looked at what the fan club wanted to hear and added some of those songs to the set. Plus, I added three or four songs from their request list. But other than that, it's a very loyal fan base. We're very pleased. And now it's three generations of people. You'll see grandparents, parents and kids. It's wild."

Part of Have A Nice Day's appeal as an album might be that Bon Jovi was writing about the highly polarized U.S. election of 2004. He campaigned for losing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

The clue is in the title.

"It's a much more jaded, cynical, kind of (take on the phrase)," Bon Jovi says. "It was really shaped by ... the election. But you know, in order to take the moral high ground, the opinion in the song is, 'You have your opinion. I have mine. And don't get in my face about it. Have a nice day.' It's a very Jersey way of twisting the words."

Still, Bon Jovi says he wasn't attempting to sway anyone's political opinion.

"It's ultimately a positive record and a record of inclusion," he says, citing Welcome To Wherever You Are -- the song from which the episode of The West Wing he's shooting takes its title. ("I don't have to perform it but it's throughout the episode," he says). "The idea (of the song is) that regardless of who you are and what you are, it's okay to be that. So that's really what shaped this album for me prior to, during and (after) the election in America. It was very polarizing in this country. I'd like to think it's getting better. We're coming back together. But from Nov. 3 on, the country had spoken and it was our jobs just as people to forget about our political differences and try and get along. And move on."

Still, he admits he wasn't a happy camper the day after the results came in.

"I was gravely disappointed but in the scheme of things, as I say, you had to move on. Am I disappointed? Sure. I wish the outcome had been different. But, again, to take the moral high ground is not to sit here and point fingers. It's not the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, the album's second single, Who Says You Can't Go Home, has been donated by Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora to a New Jersey tourism spring ad campaign -- although there is some dispute from the publisher, which wants $175,000 US for it.

"We gave it to them for free, it has nothing to do with us," Bon Jovi says. "The publishing company and the record company are up to their usual (stuff), but Richie and I, for the writers' share of the royalties, we've waived it all to the state. They'll work it out."

The hometown rock heroes have already played three shows in New Jersey, two in New York and one in Nassau during the first leg of the Have A Nice Day trek.

"We know everybody in the place," Bon Jovi says with a laugh. "It's harder 'cause your family's there. Your kids, your wife, your aunts, your uncles, your parents -- everybody's there, that's a lot of work. It's better to be outside of home."

Bon Jovi Wings it for an episode

Jon Bon Jovi, whose acting credits include Moonlight And Valentino and the TV series Ally McBeal, won't have much of a stretch for his latest role on The West Wing.

"I'm actually playing me," Bon Jovi says. "Much like the Gore campaign and the Kerry campaign where I was very involved, they brought me in here to play me and draw a big crowd to the rallies and get involved with the (Democratic presidential candidate Matt) Santos character (played by Jimmy Smits). They came to me. Several of the people in the writing staff were former Gore and Kerry supporters or speechwriters."

The episode is scheduled to air March 26.

Bon Jovi acknowledged the recent death of actor John Spencer, who played Santos running mate Leo McGarry, had sidelined the series' major plotline

"They're in a tizzy for sure," he said, but refused to answer how the show might be dealing with Spencer's passing.

"Oh, I don't know. Today is my first day. I can't comment on or answer that."

Bon Jovi was spending this past week shooting his West Wing episode before resuming the Have A Nice Day tour.

"I love acting, my life is just booked solid, it was just to keep my feet wet," he explains. "An opportunity like this arises on what happens to be one of my few favourite TV shows, (so) I said, 'Okay, a week. No big deal.' It just couldn't have been better, timing-wise."

Posted by riesambo at January 16, 2006 10:10 PM