Nothing left to prove


Jon Bon Jovi likes to think of himself as just an average guy from Jersey, with a fairly normal life and relatively average concerns. True, he has a job -- fronting the band Bon Jovi -- that DTC pays millions and puts him on stage in front of thousands every night, but he tries not to let that get in the way.

He may be a rock star, but he does his best to avoid acting like one.

So he finds it funny that his fans never quite believe it when they spot him, sans entourage, buying lettuce at the grocery or milk at a convenience store.

"I'm always amazed when someone says to me, 'You mean, you go for milk? You go to the grocery store?' Of course I go to the grocery store," he says. "What do you think?

"There's a great myth out there that I'm a prisoner of rock and roll," he continues, speaking over the phone from his house in New Jersey. "Maybe it's my upbringing or our collective background, but none of us live in Hollywood, Calif., or any of the other trappings that are associated with the cliched rock and roll star syndrome.

"When you call my house, I answer the phone. That's just the way it's always been. I've never understood the other theory. I'm not a fan of it. And I think that if Madonna or Michael [Jackson] wanted to go jogging today, it's real easy to go out without 10 bodyguards."

He says he frankly doesn't care whether his band's latest album, "Keep the Faith," matches the success of "Slippery When Wet" or "New Jersey," the albums that put Bon Jovi on the map. Obviously, he'd like people to hear his music and see his band on tour, but he doesn't obsess over it.

"I personally am not in it to play the chart game," he says. "If there's any luxury that I have at this point in my career, it's to do anything but [play the chart game].

"Look, I'm not going to have to prove to anyone but myself that I've made a record that I'm satisfied with -- regardless of if it sells 10 million or a million or a hundred thousand. If I'm proud of what's on that piece of vinyl, that's what matters to me at the end of the day."

Bon Jovi admits that he wasn't always so sanguine, that there were times when the heady rush of success was all that mattered.

"When the first two albums happened, everything was on this nice little gliding course upward," he says. "The first one, you can't believe you've got a record deal. Second one came out, sold twice as many as the first one, and we got our first gold album on stage at the Meadowlands. That was a big thrill of my life."

And then it happened. "Slippery When Wet" was released, and Bon Jovi's popularity shot through the roof. Eight weeks atop the albums chart. Two singles at No. 1. Sold-out shows across the globe. It was beyond imagining for the band.

"There's nothing or no one that can prepare you for an album that sells 14 million copies," the singer says. "And if anyone wanted to say, 'Oh, fluke, fluke,' well, 'New Jersey' came out and did just as well."

Is he pleased by all this success? In a sense, yes.

"I'm just so over the idea of having to prove myself to anybody, that if anyone wants to say, 'Oh, he's this, he's that,' I just go, 'Sorry, guys. Find a new thing to pick on me for.' "

But in other ways, Bon Jovi is anything but satisfied. No matter what his image might convey, the man underneath is still the same kid who was playing the New Jersey club circuit a decade ago -- a man who carries the same emotional baggage as anyone else. And that's what he tried to convey through his latest songs.

"A lot changes in the years between 20 and 30," he says. "The boy starts to become a man. [In writing the new album], I was able to admit a lot of things to myself -- emotions and anger, fear and happiness. And for the first time, I felt that I captured a lot of that in the songs.

"I feel relieved almost to the point where it was like I reached down into my chest, pulled a bunch of mud out, put it down and said, 'Thanks, I really feel like this is out of my life now.' And I can move on. It gives me a real feeling of fulfillment."

Maybe that's why he feels so relaxed about the band's current tour. It isn't just that, as he puts it, Bon Jovi is "just go our own way and see what happens."

This time around, the band plans on trying to enjoy being on the road.

"Life on the road is an interesting experience," he says. "You get to a situation where, literally, your bags are carried to your room for you. If you'd like, we can have someone open them for you. All you have to do is go into bed and go out of the bed. And you don't really even have to do that."

Consequently, he says, a lot of rock tours amount to "been everywhere, seen nothing." And Jon Bon Jovi has no intention of staying in that particular rut.

"We're just not going to kill ourselves this time," he says. "We're going to take the blinders off and enjoy it for a minute, instead of the way it used to be: album-tour-album-tour-album-tour. It's not going to be a part of anyone's machine."

Bon Jovi

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Capital Centre.

Tickets: $22.50.

Call: (410) 792-7490; (410) 481-7328.

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