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March 08, 2008

A Double Date With Bon Jovi

“We want to come to Beaver County,” says Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan. “We still have to prove that we can be No. 1 in Beaver County.”

Whoa, slow your roll there, David.

The nearest Bon Jovi will get to Beaver County is Pittsburgh, where the 25-year-old rock band performs twice in the next two weeks.

Bon Jovi entertains this Wednesday at Mellon Arena, then returns to the Igloo on March 15 for an initially scheduled and virtually sold-out show.

On Feb. 13, bandmates Bryan, Richie Sambora and Tico Torres did a one-hour conference call with reporters to promote the spring leg of Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway Tour. The band was in New York, preparing to leave the next day for Northern Illinois University to rehearse for the first time with their new stage set.

Bon Jovi would be on an airplane en route to NIU’s Convocation Center when a gunman went on a rampage at the DeKalb, Ill. college’s Cole Hall, fatally shooting five people and wounding a dozen others before taking his own life.

“Your thoughts and prayers go out to them,” Bon Jovi singer Jon Bon Jovi told Billboard.com. “When we landed we were just told to get back on the plane and go home. But our crew and the stage and everything was there. Once things settled down they just packed everything up and headed to Nebraska. What else can you do?”

Without any full-fledged rehearsals, Bon Jovi launched its tour Feb. 18 in Omaha.

We’ll soon see if a band that isn’t known for making political or social statements will address that shooting during its Pittsburgh concerts.

Unaware of the looming NIU tragedy during their Feb. 13 interview, the band — minus its same-named frontman — sounded calm and supremely confident as they touted a tour Sambora promised is full of “holy cow” moments.

“You know what I mean,” Sambora said. “People are going to walk away going, ‘Wow this is really cool.’”

“It’s probably the best stage we’ve ever had,” added Bryan. “It’s going to involve a lot of media and a lot of visuals.”

The warm-up act is post-grunge rock band Daughtry, fronted by former “American Idol” heartthrob Chris Daughtry.

“Chris is unbelievable. He went over really, really well with our audience” Sambora said, explaining how Daughtry was given a “test drive” in New Jersey, when Bon Jovi played a 10-night stand that also featured as opening acts Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and My Chemical Romance.

“We became fast friends with (Daughtry). It was just kismet,” Sambora said.

Sambora is feeling fortunate these days, having successfully completed an alcohol rehab program.

“I got detoxed and stopped all that stuff,” Sambora said.

So now he and his mates can focus on satisfying fans with a show that’s equally devoted to the band’s recent and classic material.

Forged in 1983, Bon Jovi made an instant impact with its big hair, big hooks and big attitude. The leather-clad band elbowed its way onto the Top-40 in 1984 with the slick and breezy single, “Runaway.” Two years later, “You Give Love a Bad Name” launched a string of chart-toppers that would include “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Bad Medicine,” “I’ll Be There For You” and “Blaze of Glory.”

In 2006, Bon Jovi became the first rock band to top the country charts, with the crossover single “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

The band said it sincerely followed their country muse with that record and a subsequent Nashville-influenced album “Lost Highway.” But they aren’t morphing into a country act.

“We kind of did it as an experiment,” Torres said. “We always want to try new things.”

Among those new things is a documentary the band is filming with two-time Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County, USA”).

Don’t expect Sambora to follow the worn-down path of rockers-turned-reality-show stars, a la Bret Michaels, Gene Simmons and Dee Snider.

“I’ve been offered a lot of reality shows,” Sambora said. “But it doesn’t interest me because I’m not keen on taking the time to do that. I would much rather be working in the studio on new albums and new projects, and with the band touring.”

Sambora feels secure with his band’s spot in history, saying, “I think our contemporaries are anybody, you know, from the Rolling Stones to Aerosmith and U2 to the Foo Fighters.”

Sambora and his mates got more flippant when asked the question “What do you still hope to prove?” by a reporter from the Beaver County Times.

“We love that county,” Bryan said.

They should, since Beaver County might have as many Bon Jovi fans per capita as anyplace outside of Jersey.

“That’s why you’re my favorite county,” Bryan said.

Posted by riesambo at March 8, 2008 12:46 AM