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July 15, 2006

Rocking out, doing good

These Jersey guys show staying power.

We come to praise Jon Bon Jovi. Not to bury him.

Because after selling a gazillion albums, owning a football team, acting in films, and partnering with a guitarist now in the limelight for his dating skills and not his six-string ones, the New Jersey native deserves some respect. Right now.

"Start a revolution, man," Bon Jovi says, holding back a laugh while heading onto a plane to Miami. "Make the respect start with you."

Maybe he's joking.

But, why not?

Even if you wanted to make light of the anthemic rockers' retinue of blue-collar pop-metal hits, from "You Give Love a Bad Name" to "It's My Life," you'd have to admit that Bon Jovi - the singer-songwriter and his namesake band of brothers - has found weightier themes to go with a heavier sound. On a more serious trajectory, 2002's Bounce and 2005's Have a Nice Day found Bon Jovi writing about broken lives and busted romances lost in the landscape of imprisonment and homelessness, real and imagined.

Not so much because he's angry, disgusted and old. But because that's what it means to grow up.

"I'm not necessarily angrier," Bon Jovi says matter of factly. "But I've been doing this for so long. I was once a boy. Now I'm a man. You go to Africa, Asia, India and beyond. You see what's going on. You act as an ambassador of pop culture. You travel and meet people who embrace that culture. Your opinions should change."

He doesn't want to just be a finger-pointer against the Bush administration, as he has heard himself labeled. Or a singer dedicated to gay-marriage rights, as go the lyrics of "Welcome to Wherever You Are."

But his opinions have so changed - in conversation, in new songs like "Bells of Freedom" - that Bon Jovi feels as if he has disappointed listeners and journalists looking for rock-star cliches. "If you don't get arrested for biting a security guard at a hotel or have a drug habit, what is there to talk about with those people?"

He must be thinking of guitarist Richie Sambora's recent bad spate of divorce-and-dating press. Bon Jovi himself and his wife of 17 years, Dorothea Hurley, have managed to stay clear of those pitfalls - new songs like "Wildflower" are dedicated to his bliss.

"Richie don't like it. I don't like it - it all just happened," Bon Jovi says. "But it doesn't help or hinder what we do. At the end of the day, if you don't write a collection of songs that people care about - year after year, tour after tour - they ain't coming back.

"We've definitely grown together as a team - as players and songwriters."

Take, for instance, "Who Says You Can't Go Home," the twangy Bon Jovi-Sambora rocker (featuring Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland) that made Bon Jovi the first rock band to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts.

Talk of competition and brotherly gamesmanship brings us to his co-ownership of the Philadelphia Soul, the Arena Football League team. It is a group of guys that, like Bon Jovi, is striving to make a difference in the community by aiding Habitat for Humanity in creating and funding homes, playgrounds and other building projects in this region.

"I've sold the records and filled the stadiums," Bon Jovi says. "We're good at it. But when the eulogy comes down, those houses will still be standing."

Bon Jovi, with Nickelback, at 8 p.m. Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way, off I-95 or I-76. Gates will open at 5 p.m., except right field. Tickets: $55-$125. Day-of- show questions will be answered at the ballpark. Phone: 1-800-298-4200 or e-mail at customerservice@neweratickets.com for advance information.

Posted by riesambo at July 15, 2006 06:33 AM