EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – In these times of Orange Alerts and terrorist-induced angst, sometimes a little "R and R" is just what the doctor ordered -- rock 'n' roll, that is.
Enter rockers Bon Jovi, currently on their worldwide "Bounce Tour," performing classics like "Wanted Dead or Alive" and new hits like the Grammy-nominated "Everyday" (the band is up for Best Pop Performance at the Feb. 23 Grammy Awards).
"This is our house, man," said Richie Sambora as he eyed the empty Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the band's home state, a few hours before a recent sold-out concert. "We all have friends and family coming tonight, and with everything going on, with the Orange Alert, we just want to make everybody happy."
Bon Jovi, which has sold nearly 100 million albums, is composed of lead vocalist Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan.
Sambora said after so many years of being part of a band that travels the globe, he's been exposed to many different cultures -- and he's no stranger to terrorism.
"We did a concert in Birmingham, England. First night, bomb scare. They clear everybody out -- no bomb. Second night, same thing, except this time, they find a bomb," he said. "Third night, same thing, but no bomb.
"The point is, we didn't let it stop us. All these countries throughout the world have been going through the same terroristic stuff that that we're just experiencing now. We're just not letting it stop us."
Security was tight at the New Jersey arena as backpacks, bottles and cans were confiscated. Patrick Aramini, assistant vice president for security at the Meadowlands, said bottles and cans are dangerous not only because they can be used as projectiles, but also as containers for chemical agents.
"People are patted down as they come in," Aramini said. "We have the state police, FBI, bomb squad and Hazmat teams on the premises, and we do a threat assessment beforehand. At this time there is no threat on this venue."
Backstage, it was business as usual for the band and others who helped make the show happen. One of those people is guitar tech Chris Hofschneider, who's been traveling with the band for more than a decade.
"I blend with the set so nobody knows who I am," Hofschneider said, as he stretched the strings on one of Sambora's guitars. Hofschneider was clad in an outfit made of the same fabric used to line the back of the stage so the audience won't notice him as he swaps out guitars for Sambora.
Meanwhile, Sambora played the opening riff to "Wanted Dead or Alive."
"It looks a lot harder than it is, really," said Sambora, who is married to actress Heather Locklear.
The couple has a five-year-old daughter, whom Sambora is very protective of. "I will be there with a shotgun when it comes time for somebody to come to date my daughter," he said. "She will be the prettiest nun in the convent."
There's a bit of irony in those words from a star who's seen his fair share of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
Richie pointed out a spot backstage that he calls his little apartment during the show. "This is where, in the old days, where all the good stuff used to happen," he said. "Now it's more mellow. ... It's become about putting on a good show, being a good husband and a good dad. You just grow up and it's not a bad thing to grow up."
That newfound maturity has prompted the band to look beyond rock 'n' roll for its own sake. Bon Jovi helped the nation recover after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, playing benefit concerts for the FDNY at the Concert for New York and the "Tribute to Heroes" telethon. But Sambora said they're not finished, and doesn't rule out a performance for our troops overseas.
"If it comes up, we're definitely there, without a doubt," he said. "These kids, the men and women, are out there on the front fighting the wars. What we do is play music. Yeah sure, you ask me to show up, I'm showing up."