Where was Jon Bon Jovi? He dispatched guitarist Richie Sambora and drummer Tico Torres to talk about Bon Jovi's 135-show, 30-country worldwide tour that brings them back to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday and Thursday.

The New Jersey rockers discussed their 11th studio album, "The Circle" (which debuted at No. 1 in November), what to expect from this tour and, first of all, about the singer's absence from the teleconference with dozens of journalists this winter. Sambora, he of the gritty "The Sopranos" voice, did most of the talking.

Q I hope Jon's absence this morning doesn't mean you guys are pulling an Aerosmith and moving on without him.

Sambora: "Highly doubtful, my friend."

On the tone of the songs on "The Circle"

Torres: "It's not like we're singing about being on the road and girls and cars. We couldn't have written this album if the world wasn't in the state it's in. Obama became president, so then we started feeling all this hope. Then the recession really hit, so there were a lot of feelings to write about that, how people were reacting. Jon and I kind of plugged into that. A song like 'Work for the Working Man,' people are losing their jobs all over the place. Our new single, 'Superman Tonight,' is probably the only boy/girl song on the record. But then again you can take that into a place where superman could be a fireman or a policeman or a doctor or a nurse or just a normal person doing some good in the world. So there's a story on every street corner, if you open your eyes.

On playing the same hits year after year

Sambora: "Let's put it this way: I'm not going to sit around in my house and play 'Livin' on a Prayer.' But when I'm playing it for people, it becomes something different. It becomes an experience. We're proud of the songs that were the big hits because those are the communicators, and that's what music is about -- the communication. I've said this before, but it's like having sex with 70,000 people when you're playing in a rock 'n' roll band."

On keeping the shows fresh

Sambora: "Jon is always calling out audibles, just like a quarterback on a football field, which means we could interject any song at any point in time. We'll also play a lot of covers, too. That's how we keep it fresh out there on the road."

On the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sambora: "After you look at our track record and how many people we've made happy in the world through our music, I think we deserve to be in there. Do I think we're going to get in? Don't know. It is definitely a political situation. It's almost like running for office. There's so many bands that should be in that are not in. So you never know."

On drawing more female fans

than most rock bands

Sambora: "That's not a bad thing, is it? I guess I don't notice. We've been drawing three generations of fans now. There are kids who are just discovering us now through 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero.' Then you've got the middle generation of fan that is between, like, 25 and 40, and then you have people who are older than that coming to see us. That's what I'm seeing across the world. But in Minneapolis, by chance that we draw a lot of women, that's pretty cool."

On the production for the current tour

Sambora: "We have some crazy stuff. We have robots that actually move the video screens around the stage. Pretty intense stuff. It'll be spectacular, that's for sure."

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719