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February 23, 2006

Bona fide Bon Jovi

Bona fide Bon Jovi Band points to its longevity, new CD as the real deal

By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
February 22, 2006

They've sold tens of millions of albums around the world. They pack arenas in the states, stadiums overseas. They've got 22 years of career behind them.
So why do the members of Bon Jovi still sound so defensive?

In a conference call with reporters (long before tales of Richie Sambora's pending divorce from Heather Locklear hit the news), guitarist Sambora and keyboard player David Bryan spent much of the interview pointing to album sales, longevity, concert attendance and insisting that the New Jersey band didn't, in Sambora's word, "suck."

Touring on the new album Have a Nice Day, Bon Jovi plays the Pepsi Center on Thursday night.

The band has had a string of hits since the '80s, including Wanted: Dead or Alive and You Give Love a Bad Name. Starting off as a hair-metal band, Bon Jovi later embraced its New Jersey roots made hip by Bruce Springsteen. Tickets for Thursday's show are selling well, but despite hit singles and albums, the band has had a lower profile in the States in the past decade than it previously enjoyed.

"We were productive in the '90s. It just was the music scene then was just grunge," Bryan says. "We never really lost our following and we never really became a grunge band. We became what we were . . . we just kept evolving what we were into a better us."

Meanwhile the band only got bigger overseas, headlining stadiums.

Bon Jovi "became a huge monster outside this country. It was funny. I was on the phone the other day with a guy from London . . . and he's saying 'When are you guys going to come back indoors? . . . You guys haven't been indoors in Europe since 1988.' . . . We've been playing stadiums all over the world . . . much like the Rolling Stones, much like U2," Sambora says.

"We grew up, and then America caught up to us, I think," Sambora continues. "What happened was in the '90s we started talking about more social issues. I mean, we still wrote a great love song, and we still wrote a good rock song as we always did. But, you know, we started growing up and people started having kids and we were just trying to become a part of what real life is. . . . I guess sometimes with an artist people have to catch up to you and what your thought stream is."

Live the band has never wavered, Sambora insists.

"After you come see this band live, you're going to be converted," Sambora says. "After all these years if we haven't learned how to be a really great rock 'n' roll band, well then something's messed up. And remember . . . we put out that boxed set (100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong). Well, they can't.

"I'm not trying to pat ourselves on the back," he continues, but "if we didn't learn how to do this really, really well by now then we must really suck. But we don't. You come and see this band play and you go 'Wow. Now I get it.' Whatever misconceptions that were misconstrued about this band at any point in time are cleared up by coming to see us play live."

The band has taken some risks with its fan base; Jon Bon Jovi was involved in the Vote For Change tour in 2004 that supported John Kerry. Sambora also did some work for the Kerry campaign. The new CD Have a Nice Day is a bit lyrically pointed in spots. Is the whole band on the same page politically?

"Sometimes yes and sometimes no," Sambora says.

"Jon's particular take on Have a Nice Day was because the whole country was bipartisan at that point, and he saw this great divide in the country," Sambora says. "For me it was more social. Maybe from Jon's point of view it's more political. That's what makes a band happen, you know? It's all about different kind of mores, and different kinds of feelings."

As for the title cut, "have a nice day was the operative line there was 'When the world gets in your face I say 'Have a nice day.' " Very Clint Eastwood, you know?," says Sambora. But, he acknowledges, "there aren't a lot of love songs on this record."

• Of note: Bon Jovi has been having a local band open each show in a contest with XM radio. At press time, the band for Denver hadn't been determined

Posted by riesambo at February 23, 2006 11:44 AM