There are plenty of Bon Jovi’s 1980s hair-metal contemporaries who are still releasing albums and still touring — but those albums aren’t going to No. 1, and those tours aren’t grossing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Bon Jovi’s still are. But why, exactly? What sets them apart?
“It’s all about the keyboards,” keyboardist David Bryan explained on a conference call.
“Excuse me?” drummer Tico Torres retorted, mock offended by the facetious boast.
“It’s all about the keyboards,” Bryan insisted, trying not to laugh. “They give us longevity, and everything I’ve done has helped this band to be where we’re at today.”
Well then, folks, you heard it here first: Friday night, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, in the second show on the second North American leg of their “This House Is Not for Sale” tour — David Bryan feat. the Band Formerly Known as Bon Jovi.
Jokes aside, the group’s two remaining original members besides eponymous frontman Jon Bon Jovi proffered legitimate theories as to the source of their longevity and popularity. Bryan attributes it to “always getting better at our craft and always getting better at making records and playing live.” Torres, meanwhile, said accomplishing that has meant that original fans were able to easily pass on their love of the band to their kids, who then did the same to their own kids, resulting in “three generations in the audience that come see us play.”
The result of all that is massive — and continuing — success: Bon Jovi videos have been viewed more than a billion times combined; the band has sold more than 130 million albums and 35 million concert tickets; it has 26 million followers on Facebook and 2.4 million on Twitter. And the recent re-release of its last studio album, 2016’s “THINFS,” went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 thanks to the inclusion of a pair of new singles, “When We Were Us” and “Walls.”
Next month in Cleveland, Bon Jovi will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The band was first eligible in 2009, but didn’t gain much traction until overwhelmingly winning a fan vote of nominees conducted by the Rock Hall at the end of 2017.
“Yeah, it’s nine years late, but we’re in the club, and it’s a wonderful club to be in,” Bryan said of the honor.
At the ceremony April 14, the band will reunite not only with longtime guitarist and songwriting partner Richie Sambora, who left the group in 2013, but also with original bassist Alec John Such, who departed in 1994.
Torres said that whatever issues came between them over the years, it was important that they all take part in the celebration of the band’s legacy.
“We took that journey together as a group. I think it’s wonderful that we can re-enact that, not only for us but for the fans,” he said. “I think when you get together with old friends, there’s always going to be some deep emotions within that.”
It’s all the more meaningful because they know that, had they come along a few decades later, they likely wouldn’t have gotten as many tries as it took them to find their way.
Bon Jovi’s first two albums — 1984’s “Bon Jovi” and ’85’s “7800˚ Fahrenheit” — reached just Nos. 43 and 37, respectively, on the Billboard 200 chart. The third album, though, 1986’s “Slippery When Wet,” featured a pair of No. 1 songs, spent eight weeks atop the charts in ’87 (and 38 weeks in the top five), wound up that year’s top-selling album, and eventually totaled more than 12 million sold in the U.S. alone.
It’s fair to say that few saw that coming after the band’s inauspicious start. But they knew they were on to something.
“It takes a lot of faith, you know?” Torres said. “At that time, I owned a house, was married. Had to do commercials and a lot of sessions with other people just to make ends meet. I think when we played together, we had a magic. … You take a chance because of that magic, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
“We always set out to be the biggest band in the world. It takes a lot of hard work to get lucky,” Bryan added. “There’s no crystal ball to say you’re going to make it or you’re not. You just have to take the leap of faith … and [you] just roll up your sleeves and get into the hard work, and hopefully it works out.”
It’s still working.
Bon Jovi’s latest arena tour kicks off Wednesday in Denver. SLC is up next.
The band is looking forward to visiting Utah because it’s the home turf of bassist Hugh McDonald, who has been with the band since ’94, and who resides near Park City.
“Hugh has always talked about some great places to go, so I imagine we ought to force him to take us out,” Torres said, laughing. “… It’s quite a place, and it will be interesting to see it through his eyes.”
Bryan, meanwhile, promised a great evening for the fans, too, in part because “we change up the sets every night,” but also because the band doesn’t treat early stops as chances to work out the kinks so that everything is running smoothly later in the tour.
“We don’t do our rehearsing in front of people. … We’re firing on all cylinders the second the lights go down,” Bryan said. “We have a high respect for the stage. You get out there and you give it everything that you have no matter what’s going on in your life.”
And they don’t intend to stop.
While they all have other ventures to occupy their free time — Torres does painting, Bryan writes musicals and JBJ has dabbled in football team ownership and running a pair of restaurants — they have no reason to stay away from the studio or the road.
After all, the fans haven’t tired of those keyboards yet.
“We made a promise to ourselves — as long as it’s fun and as long as we have something to contribute musically together, why not do it?” Torres said. “That’s where we’re at. … It’s amazing that we’re in fashion to this day. We pinch ourselves all the time.”
When • Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $46-$501; Ticketmaster