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We talked to Jon Bon Jovi about touring again ahead of Tampa show

Bon Jovi plays Amalie Arena on April 15.
Jon Bon Jovi brings his band Bon Jovi to Tampa's Amalie Arena on April 15.
Jon Bon Jovi brings his band Bon Jovi to Tampa's Amalie Arena on April 15. [ CLAY MCBRIDE | Courtesy of Bon Jovi ]
Published Apr. 12

Jon Bon Jovi is okay with going back out on the road. After all, it’s been a while. His band last toured from 2017 to 2019.

Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times by phone ahead of the new tour, which comes to Tampa’s Amalie Arena on April 15, Bon Jovi said the long period between tours is making the experience feel a bit foreign.

Bon Jovi plays Tampa's Amalie Arena on April 15.
Bon Jovi plays Tampa's Amalie Arena on April 15. [ CLAY MCBRIDE | Courtesy of Bon Jovi ]

“It’s sort of like, reacquaint myself with me and get back out there and do what I do,” he said. “And the guys are excited, so I’m excited.”

Tampa is one of 15 cities on Bon Jovi’s 2022 tour, which kicked off April 2 in Omaha, Neb. The tour is in support of the album 2020, which was released in October of that year. Originally set for release in May 2020, the album has received acclaim for lyrics that address the zeitgeist.

Bon Jovi said that in 2019, the band had a batch of songs ready — the album name was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the election year. When the pandemic hit, their planned summer tour was canceled, and the album was put on hold.

But because of that, Bon Jovi said he was able to reassess the meaning behind the album and two new songs were written. Bon Jovi emphasized that the album’s themes are topical, not political.

“It doesn’t matter if you are young, old, Black, white, Republican or Democrat, no matter where you were on the planet, we were going through this experience together,” he said.

The song Do What You Can was born from a photograph his wife took of him washing dishes at their Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, N.J., where he spent a lot of time feeding people in need, especially early in the pandemic. When she showed it to him to caption, he said, “If you can’t do what you do, do what you can.”

There’s a song title, he thought to himself, and immediately started writing it.

He created the melody, the first verse and the chorus, and sang it on the band’s social media accounts, asking fans to share their own verse.

Thousands of submissions poured in from around the globe, with people describing their experiences, using the hashtag #dowhatyoucan.

He completed writing the song, which vividly describes pandemic life and includes the line: “Although I’ll keep my social distance, what this world needs is a hug.”

Bon Jovi was equally moved by George Floyd’s killing by police and the struggle for racial equality, which is detailed in the song American Reckoning.

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In late March, Bon Jovi’s song It’s My Life from 2000 took on a new meaning when a video of Ukrainians preparing to defend themselves against Russian invasion while listening to the song went viral.

Bon Jovi said he was humbled by the video.

“I’d always said if you write a song, and you know what it’s about and it’s pure of heart, chances are, someone else can relate to that lyric,“ he said. “And then it transcends just who and what you were at that time, but it becomes who and what they are. ‘And it’s my life. It’s now or never.’ That was me saying, I want to make records. I want to make movies. I want to tell you the way it’s going to be, but who knew the power of that song?”

As part of the tour, Bon Jovi is reprising their Opening Act Contest, which gives local bands the opportunity to open for them in each city on the tour.

The spirit of giving unsigned artists a shot comes from the frontman’s personal experience. Forty years ago, frustrated by trying to get signed with demos before he had a record deal, he got his music out by approaching radio DJs. The song he was pushing was Runaway. Eight DJs obliged Bon Jovi, including one from Tampa.

“I’ll never forget his name ... Ron Diaz (of 95YNF),” he said. “So one of the first cities to play me without a record deal was that man in your city.”

He tells that story to artists who are trying to get record deals in the traditional sense.

“I say okay, here’s the best I can do for you. Come and open for me. If you make the most of this moment ... it might just get you enough traction so that the next weekend, you can get people to show up and see you play in the bar ... I’m giving you an opportunity to shine a light.”

Local band selections are made a week before the show. The one for Tampa had not been made at the time of publication.

If you go

Bon Jovi. 8 p.m. April 15. Tickets start at $95.75 and are subject to change. Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. 813-301-2500. amaliearena.com/events.

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