BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
About 17 years ago, Bon Jovi released its seventh studio album, “Crush.” It’s known primarily for spawning the middle finger stomper “It’s My Life,” but an album cut, the live favorite “Just Older,” seems more relevant to the history of the band.
“I like the bed I’m sleeping in. It’s just like me, it’s broken in. It’s not old … just older,” goes one refrain.
As the Jersey boys prepare for a 20-date, six-week tour to support their recent “This House Is Not for Sale” album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — the band’s sixth album to land at the top — but took a tumble the following week, they’re still defying age and packing arenas.
Bon Jovi — still-chiseled frontman Jon, drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and official new members Phil X on guitar (replacing the departed Richie Sambora) and Hugh McDonald on bass (he’s played with the band since 1994 but was just named an official member) — will bring their high-voltage, melodically rich arena rock to Philips Arena on Friday.
Recently, Torres and Bryan shared a call with reporters to discuss the tour, the band’s songs and playing without Sambora.
What to expect from the live show, from the look to the songs:
David Bryan: “We’re selling (seats) all the way around the venue. This one is really concentrating on the music, not so much video screens. It’s more about, we have such a body of work now, it’s really getting in all the songs and it’s about the band. … There’s definitely going to be a section (of songs) from the new record and we’ll have all the classics. We have, like, 90 some-odd songs to choose from. But there will be your favorites and we get to change it up every night, too.”
How the band prepares for a tour:
Tico Torres: “As a joke, we do a lot of Advil … I just came from the gym.”
David Bryan: “You just get in shape because you know it’s a long show. We play anywhere from … I think our average is around two, two and a half hours, two forty, so we’re always in shape. But you’ve got to get yourself in super shape so you can sing that long, play that long and feel strong.”
On songs they look forward to playing on tour:
Tico Torres: “Two of mine remain ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ obviously. That has transcended time and it’s hit people in a certain way. It’s not only thematic, but if you had to sum up Bon Jovi’s legacy, that song would probably be at the top of the list because of the optimism.”
David Bryan: “Yeah, it’s amazing, those songs, and then ‘It’s My Life.’ There’s a lot of great songs there. It’s kind of hard to say which is your favorite, but those are classics that keep going forward. We’re blessed by that. We touch a nerve within our audience and it definitely transcends time.”
On the band moving forward without guitarist Richie Sambora (who left during Bon Jovi’s 2013 “Because We Can” tour to spend more time with his family):
David Bryan: “It’s the first record without Richie, and we haven’t been in communication with him since the last tour — well, since 15 shows into the last tour — and (this job is) not a sentence and he’s decided to not be in (the band) anymore and we decided to keep going. And we’re going to keep going. I think this record was just everybody stepping up and saying, ‘This house is not for sale. This is what we want to do.’ And for me and Tico, we’re here. We’re here and we want to be here and this record, I’m proud of. We just had to step forward and do everything we had to do to make a great record and we got a No. 1 record in over 30 countries. So, we’re working; we’re still having fun. Is it the way we wanted it? No. But it’s not our decision. And everybody is still around.”
On the band’s memories of being an opening act for ZZ Top in Madison Square Garden in 1983 (Bon Jovi held an open call for local bands to open throughout this current tour — Nashville’s Maradeen was chosen for the Philips Arena show):
Tico Torres: “I took the train in (from New Jersey). We played — I remember that. We played a million miles an hour, nerves were on end. It went so fast that I didn’t even really get to enjoy it. So, is that the way you felt, David? It kind of went pretty fast for me.”
David Bryan: “Oh, yeah. I mean, first we were an unsigned band. There was a manager at the time trying to manage us, so he gave us that slot. And we went out there and did it. Yeah. I mean, your nerves … you went from a club to playing the Garden, which is where we were growing up. That’s where all the biggest bands in the world were; that’s where I saw everything, we all saw everything there.
Torres: “Richie’s amp didn’t work and it was like an eternity. It was probably like 30 seconds; felt like 10 hours, but we got it working. And we were just sitting up there. That was fun.”
With Maradeen. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10. $19.75-$552.75. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.