Rocko All Over The World

6 Dec 2006
First there was Kings of Leon. Then Snow Patrol, The Killers, Keane, Patti Smith, Kanye West... the list of critically acclaimed acts who have played with U2 on Vertigo 05/06 is pretty impressive. But when the tour comes to an end in Hawaii at the weekend, a new name will open up the show.

'Rocko and the Devils' describe themselves modestly as 'a rock and roll band.... five musicians of various levels of diverse musical influence dedicated to the idea that musical performance is the greatest thing in the universe.'

That sounds promising but given that almost no-one has ever heard of them, how come they will be performing to 40,000 U2 fans to close the Vertigo Tour - playing their set just ahead of the mighty Pearl Jam ?

The answer is not hard to come by: 'Rocko' is Rocko Reedy, a man who has walked the Vertigo Stage more often than the band themselves this past eighteen months. He's Stage Manager on the tour - in fact he is the current holder of 'Stage Manager of the Year' an honour bestowed on him by 'Tour Guide Magazine'. And a clue to his aspirations was dropped in an interview he gave to U2.Com a few months back when asked 'Whose job on the tour would you most like ?' 'Bono's.' he replied, without a breath. 'Anyone who tells you they are in this business and don't have star aspirations is lying.'

Road-crew techs who can actually play is nothing new, but there's another thing that marks Rocko out - he loves his public. He's the guy who takes the microphone to direct the audience during live video shoots. He's even developed his own U2 fan following.
'I've never been intimidated by large crowds, especially U2 audiences,' he explains. 'I go out there and they call me by name and I realise they are cool people, if I had time I'd hang out with them...'

And over the years he's also found a bunch of other musicians who like his kind of music, which is how the Devils came together. While he was on the road with Journey, the band he works with when his first love U2 are not on the road, Rocko would jam with his fellow crew members at sound check.

'The other guys: Scott Appleton, Jim Handley, and Brent Jeffers, were techs with me on the Journey Tour in 2000,' he recalls. 'And Larry O'Connor , our bass player, is someone I have known for 30 years. Journey noticed one night in Hawaii that the venue was only half full when they came on stage, but full up within a couple of songs. We found out it is because Hawaii is so beautiful that people are outside partying until the main act comes on stage.'

Journey asked Rocko if he could fix this problem - Rocko said he would personally get an opening act together for the next night. That band would be the crew.
'We opened the show for them, 12,000 people, and that was our first gig. We didn't have a name, we were just the 'Journey Crew Band.' That led to a whole series of opening slots for Journey as the tour progressed, finishing up, strangely enough, back in Hawaii in 2004. So how did the leap to supporting U2 come about ? The way he tells it, it could hardly have been easier.
'We were having dinner backstage somewhere in the USA, and Paul McGuinness was there and started talking about opening bands. I explained that we used to open for Journey and that we had a DVD of past glories, which I gave to him. 'A few days later in LA, about 30 seconds before showtime, Bono walks up to me and says, 'Me and the boys would like to know if you'd open for us on the last show?'
So that must have been a difficult decision to make ? 'I was like, 'Er.. no problem Bono!' The rest of the Devils couldn't believe it when he called them and, as a sign of the seriousness with which they are approaching this most prestigious date yet, Rocko and his Devils have spent most of their spare time for the past nine months holed up in rehearsal studios honing their craft. But he is giving little away about what they are going to play? 'Rock'n'roll' is all he will say, describing their influences as 'Beatles to Frank Zappa'.

Their set will be a mix of their own songs with well known covers but no cover too recent: 'It'll be sixties through nineties stuff, but each song has something to do with life on the road. We want to do songs the fans can sing with us, our show is for them.
'It'll be the last show and this amazing group of fans who follow this band everywhere will be there so there is definitely going to be some kind of party vibe!'
And he won't be overly nervous come the night. After all, this is a man who has scaled the heights of rock'n'roll having played bass guitar in Survivor.
'That was just after 'Eye of the Tiger,' he recalls. 'About fourteen minutes into their fifteen minutes of fame.'
Later he played keyboard - 'offstage' - for Scorpions. In fact, he confides, he even played live on the POPMART stage during U2's world tour of the mid-1990's.

'It was Chicago, Soldier Field, just after the first of three sold out shows. My old schoolmates Larry O'Connor (the Devils bass player), Jim Keck and I got up on stage with a couple of acoustic guitars after the show, way after all the fans had left the stadium, Only the clean-up people were still around. We got up on stage, the monitor and video guys turned on the system, and we played a 30 minute set to an empty stadium! Just so we could say that while you might never have heard of us... there was one night when U2 were our opening act!'

More about Rocko and his Devils here


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