Breakups are always hard, especially around Valentine's Day. So for a lot of Bon Jovi fans, today's concert at Amalie Arena might feel bittersweet, considering it'll be the band's first in Tampa without longtime guitarist Richie Sambora.
"Richie's a brother with us many years — it's not something you brush off," said drummer Tico Torres. "Of course, time heals wounds, and music definitely heals everything."
Bon Jovi's new album This House Is Not for Sale is the first without Sambora, the man behind those screaming solos on You Give Love a Bad Name and Bed of Roses, and that creaky Old West plucking on Wanted Dead or Alive. After a few troubled years, including bouts with alcohol addiction and a desire to rekindle a solo career, Sambora left the group relatively amicably in 2013, leaving Jon Bon Jovi, keyboardist David Bryan, bassist Hugh McDonald, Torres and new guitarist Phil X to soldier on.
"It's a different thing, but there's new life, and I think when you have new people, you have new energy," Bryan said. "We had some wonderful years with Richie, but if he wants to move on in his direction, it's one of those things that you can't avoid. And we carry on because the premise of this record This House Is Not for Sale is the roots, and the fact that we're still together and strong and love playing music together."
Today's show will be Jon Bon Jovi's second Tampa Bay appearance in the last four months — he headlined a voter rally with then-vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine at the State Theatre in November — but it'll be the first time fans have seen the whole band here since 2013. With three decades of hits at their disposal, that's a lot of catching up to do.
"We try to do as long a show as possible to fit them all in," Bryan said. "We try to change the list every night. I mean, there's certain staples that people expect and probably deserve. I remember when I was very young and going to the Fillmore East and watching three of my favorite bands in one night, I'd want a hit. I want to hear the songs that brought them to that pinnacle of success. And we try to keep those in there."
During a recent teleconference with journalists, Bryan and Torres took a few questions from the Times about Valentine's Day and the group's longevity.
Your tour stops here on Valentine's Day. How do you capture and share love, and what are your favorite love songs to play?
Bryan: I answer for Tico. I help him out. Tico really likes Always, and he really likes Bed of Roses. … And then he likes on the new one, the bonus track, Real Love.
Torres: Real Love, yeah, that's my favorite. You know, at my age, I've got to revert to my younger friend with my memory. But that song's always hit home. It's one of those songs, the new one, is very intimate. And I think it speaks to everybody, which is kind of nice.
Since you guys have been doing this for so long, do you feel any pressure now to reinvent the live experience? Or is the goal more to live up to what you've done in the past?
Bryan: I don't think we feel any pressure or expectations. I think what we do is we don't have to do it, we want to do it. … And we love to do it. So I think for us, we're just going to go out there and pour our hearts out, and that's what we've always done. So it's not a matter of anything except we've been fortunate to get the opportunity that we can go and play, and do what we love and love what we do.
Have you thought about how long you want to do it?
Bryan: Yes, I'm going to stop when I'm 100. I put a limit on myself. When I'm 100 years old, I am definitely going to just wing it off the road.
Torres: When he's 100, I'll be 110. (laughs.) Who knows? You know, we'll see where life takes us.
Contact Jay Cridlin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.