Rocko is on tour with Def Leppard these days as the Production Manager and he invited us to the show of this historical rock band in Marysville. We got to the venue without any problem and went looking for 'a guy named Mike under an umbrella', who had our names on a list but didn't immediately realize it, and first sent us towards a sort of V.I.P. area of the parking but then came running after us to point us in the right direction... backstage parking. Next gate, and another guy wanted to steer us away and asked for credentials, but we did the magic move... we called Rocko. At this point the guy was probably starting to worry he was doing the wrong thing and he let us through even though he had no idea where we should go, and neither did we but our man came to rescue us and to open the final gate.. into the backstage parking lot where the big red/silver trucks were all lined up together with several tour buses.
He greeted us with his typical huge smile and a bear hug, put the backstage stickers on our Rocko and the Devils shirts and took us on a tour through the backstage area. And there we were, following the boss backstage shortly before the public was let into the venue. It was all ready for Foreigner to play, with Styx' equipment just around the corner ready to be rolled in, and Def Leppard's stuff already on stage, like Rick Allen's drum kit.
As we cautiously followed Rocko, it was obvious that he was in his element. How many times have you seen him in that position, overseeing everything? He showed us the video screens and mentioned that two of the three were a new design which makes the screens much lighter and allows the wind to go through. He asked us to compare the two different types of screens during the show, the new design had a lower resolution, but it was still much better than the screen of U2's Vertigo Tour which was in fact the older design cut up in smaller pieces to allow the wind to go through.
On our way to the catering tent we met Rick Allen, and Rocko introduced us as the ones responsible for the Rocko and the Devils web site. Rick mentioned the Def Leppard web site and MySpace and agreed on the importance for a band of having an online presence. He is a very friendly, very cool guy (also for being around backstage 3 hours before his show!).
Rocko also introduced us later to a bunch of people, a couple of which he has known and worked with for ages, and we also met Jeffro, original member of Rocko and the Devils when they were still simply the "Journey Crew Band" or "Jeffro and the Mooncrickets". The tour continued inside the "video control truck", which was densely packed with high-tech equipment and the crew member in charge explained how the video screens are controlled during the show. Seeing all this technology and the professional crew doing their magic is just amazing. There is a whole "small city" behind the stage with a great diversity of talented people all working together, perfectly coordinated, to produce an amazing concert night after night. Crew members deserve a big part of the applause after each show.
Dinner was veeery good, lots of options to choose from! and then they tell us it's a hard life on the road... HA! ;-p Scott came to meet us there, and once we were done with our food, ice cream in our hands, we went to visit Scott's "cave"... hehehe.... guitars, guitars, guitars... He explained how he prepares the guitars each day with the final check shortly before Def Leppard hits the stage. Germana had the honor of holding one of Phil Collen's guitars, a heavy one that was!!! Phil Collen only played a part of one song on it during the show.
A quick visit to the tour bus where we could see how the crew travels and lives while on the road...and then it was show time!!! No, no... not Def Leppard but the show we actually went there for! We sat on the asphalt "like a bunch of hippies" and got our private show, with the songs some lucky Canadians will get to hear from the whole band in less than two weeks... And did you know that With or Without You can seamlessly morph into "I want to hold your hand" by the Beatles? and into another 3 or 4 songs? But I digress... Rocko's new song is an extremely catchy tune, I still had it stuck in my head after 2 days, stay tuned for some surprise.....
We noticed several crew members with very original T-shirts and discovered that one of them designs these shirt (you can see some of them at thisgigsucks.com). One shirt had the text: "No Picks, No Sticks, No Set Lists, Beat it!"
Five minutes before Foreigner were scheduled to start, we went to find our seats, smack center 4 or 5 rows from the b-stage. Now a short side note... all of the Def Leppard's fans were very surprised and pleased by this "new" addition to the stage, that lets the band come out and play right in the middle of the crowd...
Foreigner played a good gig and after Foreigner's set we went backstage again to discuss their performance and we took the chance for a few pictures with the rock stars... Rocko and Scott! ..and one with Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan from Styx, when they were getting ready to take the stage.
Styx were also pretty good, unlike many young opening acts you see these days it didn't feel like they were playing the same song over and over again just changing the lyrics... you could actually hear very different songs. And the crowd, maybe because it was already dark at this point, was very much into it!
Foreigner and Styx were both so intense that when Def Leppard's turn came it felt like we had already come to the end of the night, but their show was also so good that time flew! We only knew one song of their set (Two Steps Behind), which was performed acoustically at the end of the B-stage, right in front of us.
We rushed as soon as the last song of the main set started, and backstage we ran again into a Rocko so busy he didn't even see us... we knew it would have been like this, he had warned us before, so we just made our way to the car and left, beating the traffic.
It was a very special night, so much that it *almost* makes up for the fact that we will miss the Devils playing in Victoria... but we know there will be other opportunities!
A huge thank you to Rocko for taking the time to show us around backstage, playing some songs in the parking lot, dinner and everything else. This man is a real pro in what he does, and on top of that he is a great guy with a heart of gold. Also many thanks to all the people who were so kind to talk to us, and give us a glimpse into the backstage world of a huge concert production like this one. And thanks to Foreigner, Styx and Def Leppard for putting up a great gig!
Germana and Hans.