| Bon Jovi: Going strong
Washington, March 8: Most of their ’80s hair-band contemporaries have been relegated to used-CD bins, but somehow Bon Jovi is still selling out arenas and achieving multi-platinum record sales.
Although popular music has changed dramatically since Bon Jovi got together 20 years ago, the band’s approach hasn’t. Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres and Hugh McDonald are still playing anthemic ballads and boisterous rockers — catchy and melodic, if not enduringly memorable.
So what’s their secret'
“If you could bottle it, I think everybody would be doing it,” Sambora says by phone on a tour stop in Minneapolis. “I think No. 1, Jon and I really have a knack for writing songs that people can really relate to. People around the world relate, and we’re still relevant in the marketplace.”
People definitely relate. As the pop-metal flip side to Bruce Springsteen’s rock ’n’ roll tributes to working-class heroes, Bon Jovi conveys similar sentiments. The protagonists in Bon Jovi songs are instantly sympathetic and they have a universality that attracts fans who can see themselves in, for example, Tommy and Gina’s in-love-but-broke predicament in Livin’ On a Prayer.
“I think people relate to the lyrics of the songs. I mean, It’s My Life, everybody made that into their theme song,” Sambora says.
The songs may hook ’em, but it’s the live shows that keep fans coming back.
“Our touring business has always been a big, big part of what we do,” Sambora says. “So we have a very, very loyal fan base that has been coming to see us for a long, long time and we’re very loyal to it. We’re actually selling out stadiums. The arenas are the small gigs.”
Still, even the most loyal fan base erodes over time if there’s nothing new to hold its interest. The Scorpions and Whitesnake, for example, are co-headlining a theatre tour, although both bands have sold out stadiums in the past, while Skid Row and former Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil are hitting the club circuit.
Bon Jovi has been careful to keep itself visible, most recently in a TV ad for Target. To help promote the band’s latest album, last year’s Bounce, Bon Jovi is offering a limited-edition CD of eight new songs exclusively in Target stores.
“I thought that was great; that’s a real exciting thing. Now, with the problem in our industry of piracy and also all the downloading for free, you have to do everything you possibly can to be visible out there,” Sambora says.
“That just seemed like a really cool idea, judging the by people who have done it before. Macy Gray did it before, U2 did it before, very, very successfully.”