Hard rock heroes

Rock royalty, Bon Jovi to claim their long-awaited throne on Israeli soil

Bon Jovi (photo credit: REUTERS)
Bon Jovi
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?” – Jon Bon Jovi There are anthemic rock hits, and then there are songs that forge careers. With a face that helped launch a thousand broken hearts, it’s clear that John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., aka Jon Bon Jovi, is always “Livin’ on a prayer” with fan loyalty at an all-time high. Those prayers have finally been answered, with October 3 marking the first performance by the band that bears his name – Bon Jovi – in Israel at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv.
With a solid career spanning 30 years and 13 iconic studio albums spurring a whopping 130 million records sold across the three-decade hard-rock reign, New Jersey’s Bon Jovi have been one of the most impressive arena-heavy rocks acts of our generation, despite being labeled by some as ‘Springsteen lite” due to their shared home state and their tendency to simplify weighty issues with anthemic slogans.
They’ve performed more than 2,900 live shows since the early 1980s and consistently cranked out hits – chart toppers that not only dig into their classic-rock roots but also explore adult contemporary, country and pop music. From career-defining “Livin’ on a Prayer” and its tale of Tommy and Gina, the two young lovers whose love jolts over the hurdles of life, to the 1988 power ballad “I’ll Be There for You” standing as a beacon signifying Bon Jovi’s softer sound of music, or even how “You Give Love a Bad Name” turned the opening line “Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame…” into an iconic song of defiance, these hits turned the rock stars into household names, and they’ve been unstoppable ever since.
Amassing $937 million in gross earnings, any monster band shoved into the limelight is bound to hit rocky waters – the sudden departure of founding guitarist and longtime collaborator Richie Sambora, label deals dissolving, and two new albums released dominated the news.
In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock online, Sambora says, “It’s just insane. It was an insane ride. Thirty years is a good run for anything. Keeping a band together for 30 years is not the easiest thing to do in the world, and we worked really hard at it.”
After being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009 along with Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora cites “good songs” and “authenticity” as the reasons why the group has been such a success.
“Stick to who you are and be authentic – I think that was a big part of it – and then just go out there and work.”
As with the news of his sudden departure, 2015 stands as the year they announced their departure from Mercury Records after more than 30 years with the label.
“It’s the end of an era,” Jon Bon Jovi tells Billboard. “I’ve stayed at that label my entire life, 32 years, and I am the longest tenured artist on Mercury, but my deal was up, and that’s that.”
But when one door closes… Bon Jovi bounced back with the release of their 13th studio album with a title choice symbolizing their situation, Burning Bridges.
“After 30 years of loyalty, they let you dig the grave” the frontman sings. “Now maybe you can learn to sing or strum along; well, I’ll give you half the publishing, you’re why I wrote this song.”
According to the heartthrob, the album was originally hyped as a fan souvenir record to coincide with their tour of Southeast Asia, but the opportunity to make sure those bridges were destroyed was too hot to miss.
As if a new album, a tour and their upcoming performance in Israel were not enough, Jon Bon Jovi reveals that they’ve been tinkering in the studio on a new album to be released in 2016. Choosing the word “pointed” to describe the sound, there’s no hesitation in assuming that their new batch of tracks will cut through the clutter, hit the airwaves and climb the charts to their natural habitat in the No. 1 spot.
The only crown left to claim is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that hasn’t stopped the rock royalty from continuing to be the hardest working band in the world.
“I don’t care what band you’re in,” says Sambora to Ultimate Classic Rock, “you’re a live band; you’ve got to go out there and prove it every night, and we did.
We kept on working really, really hard. It was all hard work, and that work ethic never stopped. We’re blue-collar kids at heart.”
It’s a remarkable exercise in success to stare down the barrel of Bon Jovi’s explosive career – like paging through a diary… “Whoa, we’re halfway there.”