Concert Review and Album Overview of TESLA
The Sacramento-based group, Tesla, kicked off their Simplicity tour in hot and sticky conditions reminiscent of the Egyptian Room’s namesake. Lead singer, Jeff Keith, probably miserable in long sleeves and jeans, brought the sweltering crowd to its feet as he launched into “I Wanna Live”.
After a four-song intro comprised from their earliest albums, Tesla whipped out a new number, “So Divine”, from their newly released Simplicity album. Guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude performed solos with high energy and hijinks while some fans left for the cooler confines of the lobby.
Tesla’s band members admirably played without complaint like the long-time professionals that they are. All the band members, with the exception of Rude, are from the original incarnation of Tesla well-known for the Mechanical Resonance, The Great Radio Controversy, and 5 Man Acoustical Jam albums.
Following “Into The Now” from the record of the same name, Keith introduced “MP3”, the lead track from Simplicity. He explained the inspiration for the album title which came from “MP3”. The song outlines the technological advances seen in Tesla’s over 30 year history. “MP3” engenders feeling of nostalgia for the days of vinyl when Tesla first began their musical journey.
Tesla epitomized simplicity in their sparse stage set up with minimal distractions from the hard-rocking anthems that made them famous. As Keith encouraged fans to pre-order Simplicity from iTunes, roadies brought out stools and acoustical guitars for “Comin’ Atcha Live” that segued into “Truckin”. The only time the heat was addressed by the band was right before the acoustic “Paradise”. Jeff Keith sang, “Let it be, let it be” and told the crowd “They said all on or all off, and we said let it be”.
“Signs”, a cover of the Five Man Electrical Band’s hit which became a Top Ten single for Tesla in 1991, reignited the second half of the show. Keith then introduced his band mates: Frank Hannon (guitar), Dave Rude (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass), and Troy Luccketta (drums). Following “What You Give”, the band walked off stage leaving only Hannon and Rude on acoustic guitars for the sensual start of “Love Song”. As the crowd sang along, Frank Hannon switched to a double-necked cherry red axe.
Keith performed part of “Getting Better” a cappella with audience participation then the rest of the band joined in to finish the upbeat anthem. The final song, “Modern Day Cowboy”, though slightly dated with the lyric “the USA, the USSR”, mobilized the steamy fans to make noise which Keith “insisted on” in order to bring Tesla back for the encore.
With foot-stomping and hollering to encourage the seasoned performers to return, Tesla returned to play “Little Suzi” for their final song of the night. The heated-up audience left the Old National Centre having been thoroughly entertained by one of hard rock’s most underappreciated, yet very talented bands.
However, that didn’t end the reverie, as guitarist Frank Hannon headed to an after-party at Southport Bar and Grill with Roxie Rox and Password Reset. The fun-loving Hannon covered tunes by Joan Jett and Lynryd Skynyrd with Roxie on vocals. The intimate setting gave the audience a chance to get up close with the fast-fingered guitarist who also plays keyboards, piano, and organ.
Tesla’s Simplicity album released on June 10th with a whopping 14 tracks including “MP3”, “So Divine”, and “Flip Side!”. The album sold so well in its first week that it landed at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The seventh studio album from Tesla, Simplicity, returns the band to its beginnings and displays their lyrical maturity with high energy. “Flip Side!” is a danceable rock song while “Life Is a River” slows the vibe down while keeping the idea of uncomplicated rock music that hasn’t been over-produced. Each song shines in it own right, while thematically tying together as a whole album that can be enjoyed through the last track, “ ‘Til That Day”.
The band along with Tom Zutaut produced the album which they recorded at bassist Brian Wheat’s Sacramento studio. The production tied into the Simplicity theme although the songs themselves are emotionally charged and complex. “Cross My Heart” lightens the tone with a musician proclaiming his love and promise to stay true while on the road. Reflections of the loss of friends are the basis of “So Divine”. “Rise and Fall” deals with the supernatural, and contains the lyric ‘Just when I think I’ve seen everything, under the sun, I’m not surprised at all”, a true statement in a world where life gets crazier every day.
Tesla, sometimes unfairly grouped with the hair bands of the 80s, lays down the HARD rock on Simplicity. Thought-provoking lines sung by Jeff Keith over the dual guitars of Hannon and Rude, Brian Wheat’s bass and keyboards, and the beats of Troy Luccketta transport listeners back to the anthems from earlier albums, but with the wisdom of over 30 years of music-making. Simply great hard rock.
Tesla’s next stop on their Simplicity Tour is their hometown, Sacramento, on June 28th. The tour continues through the summer, ending in Las Vegas on September 20th.
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