Bon Jovi fans have been splitting hairs for months over guitarist Richie Sambora’s continued absence from the band’s Because We Can tour.
Though the tour continues to roll on in a typically obsessive-compulsive global trek in pursuit of ‘…that pot of gold’,divided fans continue to bicker and snipe at each other over their loyalties to Jon Bon or Mr. Bluesman.
Unconfirmed rumors are the rule of the day, all designed to put lipstick and mascara on a very ugly pig.
Surrogates for the Bon Jovi camp are intimating that Sambora was abusing unidentified substances; there was an intervention contingent on his going to rehab in exchange for continuing to be the band’s guitarist; and allegedly that he refused.
They say hindsight is always 20/20, but in the best of times, there were multiple reasons Richie Sambora should have pushed back when he got the call to get back in the studio and then go back out on tour.
One need only listen hard to Sambora’s emotionally raw solo record, Aftermath of the Lowdown to figure out that if this man was well-advised to tour at all—and even that was questionable after his treatment for substance abuse—it should have been in support of his own music rather than that born of his ‘sexless marriage’ with foil Jon Bon Jovi.
Those would have been the little tiny baby steps needed with less pressure that would have helped Humpty Sambora get back up on that wall.
‘What’s the difference you dolt?’, rabid Bon Jovi Kool Aid Drinkers will respond. “A tour is a tour is a tour. We want our Richie there in front of us shaking his groove thing and batting those root beer brown eyes at us”.
There is a huge difference.
For starters, the new Bon Jovi CD announcement and tour plans were abrupt; earlier than even the most ardent fans expected after the completion of the The Circle tour.
It had a drop-everything-and-come-with-me-Richie feel to it; and even if that weren’t the case, Bon Jovi plans clearly trumped any solo tour hopes Sambora had of supporting Lowdown.
How else to explain a solo show here, a Runaway Tours excursion there (that Bon Jovi yoke around Richie’s neck yet again) and the sudden interruption and ultimate termination of Sambora shows behind his first new record in over a decade?
It makes no sense, and would have pissed off the most loyal of followers in an King’s court.
Sambora—like anyone in recovery—was experiencing a tsunami of feelings.
They rise to the surface after rehab for any kind of substance abuse and are part of the reason why a person fell victim to the romance of numbness in the first place, and they must be dealt with, not shoved under the rug in the name of work work work and more work.
Drink or drug or excess of any kind are comforting or we wouldn’t succumb to them. They calm or sedate, providing a temporary safe escape; but take that away and emotions are raw, right there in your face, scorching your veins and making your heart beat like a horse at full gait.
Sambora’s record is gut-level honest and lays bare the formerly Undiscovered Soul as a sensitive Tortured Soul instead.
Why didn’t his partners of 30 years in the band consider this then, instead of now when considerable damage has been done?
A tour either way should have been ill-advised, but if he were to undertake anything, sufficient unto this day would have been grappling with—and vanquishing—his own demons on his own terms, in his own way, via his own shows.
‘Demons?!’, the Kool Aid drinkers shout from the rafters. “Richie’s not possessed you moron! He just needs to get back out on the road with the Jovi Boys”.
Then take a good long listen to the guitar solos on Seven Years Gone or Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing and the lines in Burn That Candle Down.
Once you get past the fact that Sambora is shredding more powerfully than on his previous work, it should be apparent he is channeling and exorcising his own demons in a process that would have helped the man continue to heal.
On his own, on his own terms, in his own time. Not Bon Jovi’s.
Someone in the Bon Jovi camp should have been hip to this vibe, and the very least afforded Sambora a two or three song set interlude of his own new songs at Bon Jovi shows.
Not one fan would have complained, and it might have kept him in the fold, showing that his employer was sensitive enough to realize what was going on and that Richie’s music matters just as much as Bon Jovi’s.
While Sambora’s continued absence from Bon Jovi shows no sign of changing any time soon, the longer the standoff goes without credible news reports that he is in rehab or ill or that someone in his family is ill as the explanation, it comes down to personalities, or process, or a little of both.
And if the more sinister of the rumors of drug or alcohol abuse turn out to be true, the perpetual touring machine that is Bon Jovi is every bit as responsible for putting Sambora in a tenuous position for their own purposes as he has or has not done to himself.
Be sure to find and follow Glenn Osrin on twitter @wizardofosrin