It's another world for Bon Jovi on European tour


International travel seems to agree with Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora. At the moment, he's in Amsterdam, having just flown in from Stockholm, and after three months on the road, he couldn't be happier.

Why? Because Bon Jovi is huge overseas.

"It's bigger than we were during the 'Slippery When Wet' period," he says, proudly. "The stadiums are all sold out. You know, we played three nights at Wembley Stadium in London, 72,000 people a night. Sold out. There were only four other artists who have ever done that. One was Springsteen, one was U2, one was Madonna, and one was Prince and Elton John put together. So that's a pretty astounding thing."

Album sales aren't bad, either. "The greatest hits just went over 13 million copies, worldwide," he says. "And also the new record, 'These Days,' came in ahead of Michael Jackson in a bunch of countries out here. It's stayed at No. 1 in the U.K. for two solid weeks since it has come out. It's just cooking for us over here."

Sales in the United States. haven't been quite as spectacular, but Sambora isn't worried. Once Bon Jovi starts touring the States, he figures the old excitement will kick in again.

Why? "I think that's probably because the live show is really the important thing for us," he says. "I think everybody knows that they can come to a Bon Jovi show, and when they walk out, they've had a great time. You know? We have a way of doing that. We were very, very good at it, because we've been doing it for such a long time.

"We're an old-style kind of bar band that goes out and plays live every night -- except that we're playing bars the size of stadiums now."

It doesn't hurt, either, that Bon Jovi still sounds like Bon Jovi. Where other acts have tried to change with the times, Bon Jovi has pretty much stayed the course musically, with the end result that "These Days" carries much of the same character as 1986's "Slippery When Wet."

That's not to say the band is repeating itself. "We've changed and evolved, so we don't write 'Livin' on a Prayer' again, and we don't write 'Wanted Dead or Alive' again," says Sambora. "We just move it forward. It still sounds like Bon Jovi, but there are a lot of stylistic changes. I mean, 'This Ain't a Love Song' is almost like a Sam & Dave or Otis Redding, R&B; kind of tune. We like to move it in different directions and stuff like that. We're not the kind of band that looks back and pats ourself on the shoulder and say, 'Let's do that again.' "

Sambora adds that songwriting is the most important element in his band's continued success. "When I was a session musician, I would walk into a session, and listen to that song, and the song would tell me what it needed out of me to make it a great record," he says. "I think that's essentially what we do right now. Because a great song is undeniable. Even the bands that have fallen to the wayside -- they're only a song away from coming back, you know what I mean? If you have great songs, then you have a career."

And there's nothing better than a second shot at success, he says.

"The first time we had all this success, it came at us so blindingly quickly that we probably missed a lot of it," he explains, laughing. "Now, we're in the moment, we've grown to a place where we're more comfortable with who we are personally, and also who we are in the music business. We're enjoying it tremendously, and that comes off very, very well onstage.

"So people are having a great time, because they see us, the hosts of the party, enjoying ourselves."

In concert

When: Aug. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $40 gold circle seating, $27.50 pavilion, $20 lawn

Call: (410) 481-6500 for tickets, (410) 730-2424 for information

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