Article from The Star-Ledger
Back when he was a 19-year-old unsigned rocker, Jon Bon Jovi's ultimate goal was to play the newly opened Brendan Byrne Arena in his home state of New Jersey.
The aspiring singer, then known by his birth name, John Bongiovi, had a friend who worked for promoter John Scher. His pal gave him backstage passes and comp tickets to see his favorite bands at the East Rutherford venue, later renamed the Continental Airlines Arena.
Bon Jovi was supposed to be handing out programs but he usually wound up lounging in box seats and critiquing the performances over a couple of brews.
"You name it, I saw it there," said Bon Jovi, 40, a Sayreville native. "I remember Tom Petty coming on stage and them announcing, 'Would you please welcome Tom Petty from the United States of America'. Everybody knows Tom Petty's from Florida but what a cool thing. I remember Split Enz' outfits glowing in the dark. I remember Billy Squier's stage being pink and saying, 'Bad idea.' I remember Steve Perry hitting notes I thought only angels could hit."
Five years later, Bon Jovi was no longer a box seat Ebert. His dream of playing the Brendan Byrne came true.
Riding high on the "Slippery When Wet" album, Bon Jovi's eponymous band played the Brendan Byrne twice in 1986. In September, they opened for 38 Special. Three months later, Cinderella opened for them on New Year's Eve.
Seventeen years, several haircuts and umpteen guitar solos later, the band's tallied nearly a dozen concerts at the Continental Airlines Arena, and four shows at the adjoining Giants Stadium. If the Continental is the house that Bruce Springsteen built, Bon Jovi surely has a spare set of house keys.
Touring with their latest album, "Bounce" ( Island/Def Jam ), the band adds two more concerts to their Continental total this week, playing shows tomorrow and Tuesday.
While Bon Jovi's brand of anthemic rock for the masses is about as fashionable as a feathered mullet at the moment, the band is still an arena draw, a hot seller on the charts and an inescapable media presence. They've sold 93 million records worldwide and they've played everywhere from Giants Stadium to Lenin Stadium in Moscow. They recently performed on the Super Bowl post-game show a couple of weeks ago, their "Everyday" single is up for a Grammy in the pop category and on April 19, the band will headline Tiger Woods' annual "TigerJam" benefit concert in Las Vegas.
Thus far, "Bounce" has failed to match the multi-platinum sales of its predecessor, 2000's comeback hit, "Crush." It did, however, jump from #149 to #104 on the Billboard chart last week, boosted by the band's Super Bowl appearance.
So, how do four blue-denim rockers compete with the flashiest flavors of the moment? The band's ceaseless touring has helped it transcend pop trends and critical lashings. Thanks to their global road trips, they've built a grassroots fan base that's stuck with them in the midst of a volatile musical climate. Of course, their catchy riffs and singable choruses don't hurt.
"We've been loyal to our fans by playing every market and coming to see all the people that have been loyal to us," said guitarist Richie Sambora. "Another reason Bon Jovi is still around is that we write songs that people can get their heads and their hearts around. You have to evolve but you also have to be true to yourself. If Bon Jovi ever put scratching on a record or tried to make a Pink Floyd album, our fans would just go 'bulls--'."
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