Vancouver/Victoria, BC, September 28th, 2007.
According to Joe Elliott of Def Leppard ‘what happens in Victoria, stays in Victoria”. I’ll have mercy on you and disregard some of that :-)
Thursday Rocko met me at the box office outside the venue. I could see him coming from about 100 ft away (I know that stride!) As he came toward me, two concert fans waylaid him to chit-chat, and as he finished talking to them, I stepped into his path. He moved to avoid bumping into me and I stepped back into his pathway, and he finally looked up, saw me, and a huge smile “Donna!?!”. Moments later, massive Rocko hug, totally spontaneous, totally enveloping, totally wonderful.
We picked up my pass and ticket, and ‘follow me’ and we’re off. In through the backstage door, right up to the back of the stage and the grand tour. I got to see Rick Allen’s custom drum kit, Larry Gowan’s keyboard on a circular base which allows him to spin it and do crazy things with it, and some tricks of the trade for which I’m sworn to secrecy but which looked pretty damn cool and which Rocko invented for the band. Rocko told me to dig out my camera, then took my picture in front of some of this damn cool stuff and told me ‘look like a rock star’. (easy for him to say!). I also got to stand out on the end of the stage in front of 60,000 (nearly) empty seats and see the view from the band’s perspective – something I’ve always had an inkling to do ‘one day’.
We did the rounds around the stage, around the venue, talked to venue security about a multitude of things, including some special info regarding 8 lucky kids who got to do a meet and greet with drummer Rick Allen through his charity venture Raven Drum Foundation. Everywhere we went, Rocko introduced himself to people that didn’t know him (which was very few btw), and introduced me to everyone he spoke to (which was just wild, really). A few times I hung back, not wanting to get in the way, and he would smile and wave me over close, and include me in the conversation. It was a small gesture with huge impact to me. ‘Keep up’ again, and we were off to the Devil’s dressing room to meet the band. He’d introduce me to each member as we found them, and as he said my name, they’d smile a little and say hi, shake my hand and Rocko would add ‘from our website’ and their smile would get huge and then would come the hug. Jim is hugely tall! And gorgeous hair. Brent seemed a touch shy, but a beautiful smile, and Larry I’ll never call you by the wrong name again J. We met Scott on the way back out of the dressing room, and I was introduced to another fellow (production manager?) and to keyboardist Terry. I didn’t realize until the next night which Terry I was shaking hands with hah. Rocko had to go do something so told me to make sure to get a picture with the Devils. Being in a photographer’s frame of mind, I literally pushed Jim over to the rest of the guys (sorry Jim) and told them to 'line up.' The other fellow (sorry I just cant remember your name) told me I had to be in the photo too (doh!) so I said, well, who’s going to take the photo? He took the photo for me and I felt dwarfed (literally and figuratively). They pulled me into their ranks and it was surreal being surrounded by such a great bunch of guys.
Rocko came back and we were off again! Believe him when he says he walks miles! In fact, he’s being conservative with his estimates, I figure. We went off to gather Rick Allen’s guests and Rick came out to meet and greet them and you should have seen their faces! It was great. I was introduced to Rick once he’d finished, and found out he’s from Sheffield (home of actor Sean Bean and Sheffield United Soccer team -great accent too).
Just before we said our goodbyes, I gave Rocko the Banner book. I took it out of the bubble wrap, opened the first page where Tina inscribed the book to him, and he was very touched by the gift. He looked at a few of the pages real quick and was amazed at how a book had been published already, promising to read it at first chance.
Another hug, and Rocko was off to shower and get into gear for the show and I went out to find my seat. We said our goodbyes, which was easy, as I was going to say hello again the next day.
Friday a friend of mine, TM, came with me to the venue. We met just after 6pm, picked up our tickets and passes and weren’t sure what to do – wait for Rocko to come out, or go in ourselves. We saw about 30 people go inside but couldn’t find out which door they were let in, so decided to go around to the back door like I did on Thursday night. The venue security looked at our passes and waved us through, and we found ourselves inside the loading dock area right behind the stage. I heard music (loud, good music) coming from the stage, and was suddenly filled with an unexplained excitement and giddyness. My friend and I rounded the corner and we were on the floor right in front of the stage, and Rocko and the band were on stage doing a sound check. I stood off to the side a bit, and Brent noticed me first, and his face lit up. The song ended, Rocko gave instructions about tweaking the sound here and there, and then into the next song. By this time he’d noticed me as well, and smiled, and kept on singing. It was ‘I don’t wanna fall in love’ and he jumped of the stage on the side furthest away from us and disappeared… just this disembodied voice as he walked here and there testing the sound as he went. I knew from Hawaii show that he’d walk around the entire ramp area, so kept watching the rest of the band and Rocko ended up right behind my friend TM who had no clue he was there. When I turned and smiled at Rocko, TM turned around and was shocked to find Rocko right there, and singing to her! She broke up laughing and he jumped back on the stage to finish off the song.
They had a few other songs to burn through, but Rocko took the time to come over and say hello to my friend and said he’d try to come see us between acts if he could. (True to his word – he did come and find us between sets just to say hello and goodbye) so TM and I went to find our seats and wait for the show. (and I finally got to meet Maris and her friend just before show time).
After a Roadie stand-up comic (who was hilarious), the Devils were on. I told my friend that I’d be down on the floor taking photos for most of it and she was okay with that. I went down to the floor and showed my pass, and the venue security lady wouldn’t let me in. She didn’t recognize the pass. Rather than argue with her, I went over to the security guy near the backstage area. I showed him my pass, and he said I couldn’t go in without an escort. I tried to patiently explain to him that the pass was all access, that I was there to take photos for the Devils, that the Production Manager for Def was also a Devil (hah… pun not intended), and had signed my pass etc, but he wouldn’t budge. Meanwhile the beginning of Eleanor Rigby was playing already. I was panicked! Hans and Germana, Tina, Sammi, the rest of the devils fans wouldn’t let me come home with no photos.
I looked over and saw Terry, and asked if he remembered me from the night before and he said ‘yes, Donna’. I explained what was going on, so he told the security fellow to let me in. However… that got me beside the stage on the crew side and I still needed to be able to wander on the floor to take photos. One of the Devils came over and heard what was going on, and gave me his pass. Armed with this light saber, I was able to part the security venue staff like the proverbial Red Sea and got to roam everywhere and snap as many pics as I could! I roamed and snapped, and I’ll tell ya… lead singers move at the speed of sound and are impossible to get clear shots of! Rocko… buddy, you move at the speed of light!! I was at the end of the ramp figuring on getting a good shot as he 'meandered' down the catwalk. Right…. He moved so fast I couldn’t focus the camera on him and the resulting shot is Rocko’s smiling face about 6 inches from my face.
The set ended. I don’t know all the songs (sorry guys) but there was Road Rage, Broken Brains, Domino (yes… I do love that song!), as well as Eleanor Rigby and I don’t wanna fall in love and a few more I was unfamiliar with. There was a cover tune of Cheap Trick's Cool Voices (which i loved), and Vivian from Def came out to play guitar on two songs with the Devils. The Devils played at least 30-45 minutes and the crowd took a bit to warm up to the show, but once they did, they couldn’t get enough. The set was over, the band went off to do whatever they had to do and Rocko was back into Production Manager mode as they changed the stage over. I went out to look at the merchandise and heard many people talking about Rocko and the Devils, had quite a few stares at my Devil’s t-shirt (felt good btw), and there was incredible feedback on Domino. People were mentioning it by name and I heard someone humming it as I walked past.
The rest of the night passed quickly, Def Leppard were good, the crowd was appreciative, and then it was over and time to try and wind down from the whirlwind of the last two nights (which was veeeery hard to do)
Just also want to add this: there is a definite excitement in being part of a large touring production, even though I know the job takes its toll on mind and body more than any other job perhaps. The people I met both evenings were professional through and through. They each know their jobs; they strive to do the best they can to make sure the audience is only aware of the people on the front of the stage, and not about what goes on behind it. Rocko is a consummate professional, always polite, always positive, always ready to find solutions, and still able to smile endlessly throughout every stage of what he does. I was given 5 star treatment, made to feel comfortable and welcomed, and Rocko didn’t miss a beat with his job all at the same time. I didn’t manage to get a photo of Rocko and myself together in those two days, but those smiles and the warmth of the hugs is worth more than any photo in the world.