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Bon Jovi: Still celebrating living in the 'Now'

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Bon Jovi
Photo by David Bergman
Bon Jovi Photo by David Bergman

In 2010 and 2011, Bon Jovi played across the United States, across Europe — touching down in some 50 countries in all.

What the band members — singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres — saw were countries in recession and ordinary people struggling through hard times. Those experiences became inspiration for “What About Now,” the new Bon Jovi album that will arrive on March 26.

“It really, really was born out of a lot of the things that people were going through, that we were feeling, how people were feeling about the things that were happening in the world,” Richie Sambora said in a teleconference.

Sound like a bit of a sobering-and-serious record? Of course not. Remember, this is Bon Jovi, the band that has been livin' on a prayer, keeps the faith to always be there for you — a band that has made a career out of celebrating good times, good love and big dreams.

“It's not a bummer of a record,” Sambora said. “It's certainly not a negative record. It's a very, very optimistic and positive record and that's the way I look at it, anyway.”

Instead, Sambora and frontman Jon Bon Jovi (the songwriting team on the vast majority of Bon Jovi songs) focused on the way people show resilience and come together for each other during hard times.

The first single from the new album, “Because We Can,” is an example of the attitude. It's also the name of the tour the group brings on Thursday to Consol Energy Center, Uptown.

“Having a very optimistic outlook in the songs is always very important,” Sambora said. “Even a song like the first single, ‘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.”

Bon Jovi itself hasn't had too many struggles over a career that now spans 30 years.

The band broke through in a big way with its third album, the chart-topping 1986 release, “Slippery When Wet,” which included the hits “Livin' on a Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name.” That was followed by an even-bigger album, “New Jersey,” which included five hit singles.

The band saw its popularity dip, though, heading into the 1990s, as grunge supplanted pop metal as the predominant sound on rock radio. But over the past dozen years, Bon Jovi has enjoyed a major resurgence, as the 2000 CD, “Crush,” 2003's “Bounce,” 2005's “Have a Nice Day,” 2007's “Lost Highway” and 2009's “The Circle,” have all been hits.

Things are looking up heading into the release of “What About Now.” Sambora said ticket sales for the initial dates on what figures to be an 18-month world tour are strong.

“Because We Can” looks like it will become the latest in the long line of Bon Jovi hit singles. Featuring one of the best guitar riffs Bon Jovi has ever built into a song, it's a rousing anthem about support, determination and belief.

The “What About Now” album as a whole, the band members said, will sound like Bon Jovi, which is only natural for a band that, after a dozen studio albums, has certainly created a signature melodic-rock sound. Few other details were offered about the songs or sound of the new CD.

“If you put the four of us in a room, it's going to sound like us because it's us,” said Bryan, who along with Torres, also participated in the teleconference.

The return of Bon Jovi follows a year-long break during which Jon Bon Jovi wrote a song, “Not Running Anymore,” for the film “Stand Up Guys.” The song is nominated for a Golden Globe award.

Sambora used the break to make his first solo album in 14 years, “Aftermath of the Lowdown,” while Bryan was busy with his musical, “Memphis.” It ran on Broadway from 2009 until Aug. 5, 2012, and won four Tony awards in 2010, including best musical.

Now, it's back to Bon Jovi and the tour. Fans can expect a show with plenty of visual bells and whistles.

“With every tour, we also try to up our game, as well, with that, without making it such a production that you lose the fact that there's a band there,” Bryan said. “It's really looking cool.”

Bryan, though, wasn't about to spell out any details about the visual tricks “Nope,” he said when asked. “Then it wouldn't be a surprise.”

Fans, though, can expect to hear a generous selection of songs during the show from across Bon Jovi's career.

“We play for at least two-and-a-half hours, sometimes longer, so there are a lot of songs from all the records,” Bryan said.

“We know there are staples that, as fans, we would want to hear, so we always give that. And then we change up a bunch of songs and then throw in a couple of new ones, and every night it's different.”

Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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