'Have a nice day," he has been known to sing. And I do believe he means it.
Jon Bon Jovi is on the phone, calling from Ireland on the morning after Hurricane Sandy did its rude business on the eastern seaboard. The rock star is famously a New Jerseyite, but before I can ask him about how he and his had been affected by the storm, he questions me about Toronto. How is it there? Is everything okay? That kind of thing.
Taken aback by his concern over the city's well-being, I mumble something about the big winds. We're fine, I say, speaking for Canada's biggest metropolis. But, Jon Bon Jovi, what about the Garden State? "Yeah, bad," he replies. "My wife and kids were actually in Manhattan. But I spoke to them this morning, and everything's okay. Thanks for asking."
Bon Jovi is known as the CEO (and main financial beneficiary) of his namesake band and brand. He is wholesome, not a rehabber, and runs a charitable foundation that includes the Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant in Red Bank, N.J., notable for its pay-what-you-can prices.
His hair shines flawlessly and he's got a mile-wide smile – big enough to eat a banana sideways, perhaps. He has a reputation for being highly disciplined and hard-working. His exploding-chorus guitar rock is as corporate and crowd-pleasing as Coca-Cola. And did we mention the hair?
But in a Billboard magazine cover story on Bon Jovi a year ago, the Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels praised something else: the man's manners, and not just the perfunctory please-and-thank-you niceties. "I just mean a level of respect for all the people you work with," Michaels said. "I've found him in every one of my dealings with him to be completely honest and straightforward. I've been around a long time, and it's not common."
Riley O'Connor, head of leading music promoter Live Nation Canada, vouches for Bon Jovi's good nature. "He would be the best neighbour you could ever have," O'Connor says, "the kind of person you'd invite over for a barbeque on short notice."
In a wide-ranging interview with the Globe and Mail, Bon Jovi was candid on the subject of the U.S. election. Though he's a campaigner for his country's incumbent President, he doesn't stoop to the divisive rhetoric that has characterized the presidential campaign. "I've done six appearances for Obama this year, but it doesn't mean I dislike Mitt Romney," he makes clear. "They have two different viewpoints, but it doesn't mean that either man is wrong."
Scuttlebutt has it that Bon Jovi has a future in politics. On the topic, he voices his frustration over obstructionist shenanigans in Washington. "Who's going to finally stand up and say 'enough of partisan politics and enough of bias, enough of prejudice.'"
The band's new album, set to be released early in 2013, comes with a titled question – What About Now. "We're at a crossroads," Bon Jovi explains, about the album's social overtones. "There was promise after Obama's election, but what about now? The promise has to be fulfilled."
A cynic might suggest the band has some unfulfilled promises, too. The Circle, from 2009, was a gold-selling disappointment compared to the platinum-achieving numbers of the Nashville-inspired Lost Highway from 2007.
The 50-year-old singer was overseas publicizing the band's just-announced 2013 world tour. Tickets are on sale for February concerts in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, and April shows in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. The promotional jaunt was cut short, however, when the I'll Be There For You singer jetted home to headline last Friday's benefit show for Sandy's storm victims. Those also on the bill for the widely televised concert from NBC's Rockefeller Center facilities in New York City include heavyweights Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel, Sting and Bruce Springsteen, a fellow Snooki-state citizen whose album from this year included the politically charged lead single We Take Care of Our Own.
Bon Jovi's last two worldwide tours were the top-grossing tours in 2008 and 2010. Next year's expedition in anthemic minor-key rock, however, faces stiff (as in formidable and arthritic) competition for the year's top money-maker . The Rolling Stones are expected to hit the road in 2013, a prospect Bon Jovi has considered in more ways than one. "I bought tickets to see them in New Jersey," he says, referring to already announced December shows by the so-called world's greatest rock 'n' roll band. "I adore them."
He admits his band can't match Jagger's for revenue per show, but he expects that his longer tour will ultimately out-earn the victory-lapping British legends. (It's expected that Bon Jovi will play more than 100 shows in 30 countries.) Is the face of the band competitive in that way? "I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't," he admits. "It's nice to walk around the house and to know we're the biggest touring band on the planet."
The singer, also known for his part-time adventures in acting, was nominated for an Oscar (and two Grammys) for his Blaze of Glory contribution to 1991's Young Guns II. More than 20 years later, he seeks to reprise his Hollywood soundtrack success with two songs in an upcoming comedy. It stars Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino (or, as Bon Jovi puts it, "Mr. Pacino"). The title of the film? Stand Up Guys.