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Some of my favorite writers are clever with words. But the ones I go back to are the ones that are clever with ideas. -- Bono

Rock On

U2 stage manager Rocko Reedy and his band will open Saturday's show
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
When the Hawaii date for the final stop on U2's Vertigo World Tour was announced earlier this year, Rocko and the Devils was listed as the opening band.

Excuse me, but who-and-the-what??

And even with Pearl Jam added to the concert bill, Rocko and his band remain part of Saturday's Aloha Stadium show.

So what kind of pull does this mystery group have that it can open for the World's Best Rock Band?

Plenty, if you consider that the Rocko in question is U2's longtime stage manager, Rocko Reedy. The 50-year-old road veteran said he's worked in the biz for 32 of those years, "ever since 1974, when I started off working with Styx while still in high school."

When he's not busy working on some rock tour, Reedy kicks back with his wife at their home in Columbus, Ohio.

"The Vertigo tour started in February 2005 with rehearsals, and putting together a crew of 95 people, 18 semi-trucks and 12 tour buses for the indoor arena tour, which lasted for three months," he said during some downtime in Japan.

"The main core of the touring crew was supplemented for the European outdoor stadium tour, which is triple the size of the arena show. There were also three teams putting together the steel structure for the stage -- each stage leapfrogging the other -- using 30 semi-trucks."

Now, after months helping coordinate one of the biggest tours to traverse the world, Reedy has the opportunity to help finish out the tour by opening for his "employers."

But to ease any doubts, Rocko and the Devils is a honest-to-God band. "(We don't) have a record deal ... yet! We just play rock 'n' roll."

Reedy is no stranger to the islands, a tour stopover he's come to love. He was last here as production manager for Journey when they played the Blaisdell Arena. The rest of the Devils -- guitarist Scott Appleton, keyboardist Brent Jeffers, bassist Larry O'Connor and drummer Jim Handley -- are the band technicians for Journey.

Fronting for Journey on occasion has caused a bit of confusion at times. "It's funny," Reedy said, "here we're opening the show, some intro music is played and we come running up to the front of the stage, with all the stage lights going. We shocked the audience. We played an old Badfinger song, 'No Matter What,' and people were asking who we were.

"We're living the dream. We play for about a half-hour, and it's a win-win situation. We've previously played state fairs, playing before 15 to 20,000 people, but not on this scale before. The gravity of this first hit us when we were approached by U2's manager Paul McGuiness, who said that Bono came to him to ask us to open for them in Hawaii.

"We're gonna do some original material. The rapport with U2 fans is wonderful, because they pay close attention. Our Web site has some of our songs on it, and so far we have had over 500,000 hits from U2 and Journey fans."

Describing the band's sound as "a cross between the melodies of the Beatles and the humor of Frank Zappa," Reedy said one song in particular has a Hawaii origin. "We'll be doing an original called 'Road Rage,' about driving down Nimitz Highway, trying to get around tourists who don't know how to drive. Now, local people know how to drive! With the tourists it's, 'Oh, look, a palm tree!' "

Life on the road has never been better for Reedy.

"I've been with U2 for 15 years now, ever since the Zoo TV tour. It's been one of the best experiences ever."

And it's been an experience he can fully enjoy -- without the additional "benefit" of recreational substances.

"I don't drink and I don't do drugs anymore. Ever since I worked the 1989 Pump tour with Aerosmith, I cleaned up, and I've been sober ever since.

"I have zero tolerance with the working crew. We're dealing with immense amounts of equipment here. The days of T-shirt-and-jeans wearing guys drinking beers whenever they can backstage are over. It's been a quantum leap in terms of technology, gear and professionalism.

"This is one of the most technically extravagant tours. We're dealing with a video screen half the size of a stadium, with 100 speaker cabinets on each side of the stage. It's not meant to be louder-than-God, but for fidelity."

His working relationship with one of the world's biggest rock bands allows Reedy to see the guys' private sides.

"As huge as U2 are, when we talk about the show, they're just people. And Bono is so sincere about his convictions. He's gotten politicians to forgive world debt. That's amazing.

"I remember when I was with him for his seven-city 'Heart of America Tour: Africa's Future and Ours' in December of 2002. Here we were, in the Midwest, doing a barnstorming tour through churches and universities to increase awareness for the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and he was actually accomplishing it.

"I would remember times, on the road, when it was just me and him in a quick-change room, and I would be reminded that I'm working with such a great guy as Bono. And the band, as a whole, are wonderful human beings, just great guys to work with."

© 2006 Honolulu Star-Bulletin