By Phillip Smith
Saturday evening, I took a break from the harsh Iowa winter we’ve had this year and headed down to Riverside, IA to recharge my soul with the music of Tesla. It was an exemplary performance. Vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude, along with bassist Brian Wheat, and drummer Troy Luccketta once again, proved they can sell out a show all while keeping an audience of dedicated fans on their feet for two hours.
Tesla took the stage, kicking things off with the hard driving, “I Wanna Live”, followed by “Hang Tough” and one of their newer songs, “Taste My Pain”. Hannon switched out guitars, for “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, grabbing his Flying V and unleashed what seemed like everything he had on the song while Jeff Keith nailed it all down in place with his ‘made for rock’ raspy vocals. Before switching over to Five Man Acoustical Jam mode, they finished the first chapter of the show with “Mama’s Fool“, which featured some really nice swampy bluesy guitar from Hannon, and cool vocal harmony with him and Keith. I loved the bass line on this too. Wheat really tied it together. Unexpectedly before the song ended, Hannon’s guitar whipped behind his back and he finished with an impressive guitar solo.
For the Five Man Acoustical Jam, stools were brought to the front of the stage for the guys to perch upon, and the electric guitars were replaced with acoustic. Although “Comin’ Atcha Live” was on their Five Man Acoustical Jam album, it’s still kind of odd to hear played in this format; however it is still cool as hell. Hannon broke out his resonator guitar for this, giving the song some bonus twang. And as on the Five Man Acoustical Jam album, they segued into the Grateful Dead song, “Truckin’”. This put a huge smile on my face. Before switching back to their electric instruments, Wheat switches his bass out for keyboard, and the band performs “Paradise”. This one is really beautifully played.
With a driving beat provided by Luccketta, and the opening notes played by Hannon and Rude, “Signs” begins. A brief chill hits me as the crowd begins to sing along. Bringing this one to an end, huge cheers are released to Hannon presenting a rather large banner over his head that read, ‘And the Sign Says Tesla Rules’’. They ruled indeed.
The final third of the show was chock full of fan favorites. “The Way It Is” closed with a strong finish, and with the opening notes of “What You Give”, I could feel the excitement in the air balloon up. Rude and Hannon, back on acoustic, sublimely play the intro to the power ballad, “Love song”. Once it gets going, Hannon is handed his double-neck guitar. His playing is so impressive.
It wouldn’t be a Tesla concert without a five start performance of Modern Day Cowboy, which is exactly what it was. For a moment it is thought the show is over, but Tesla, with a little coaxing from the fans, returned for one last song, “Little Suzi”. This drew not only a ton of applause, but drew a few folks into the aisles for a little dancing as well. I don’t know how he does it, but Keith can still hit those high notes. All in all, it was a stellar show and a damn good time.
I Wanna Live
Taste My Pain
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Comin’ Atcha Live / Truckin’
A Wonderful World
The Way It Is
What You Give
Modern Day Cowboy
All photographs by Phillip Smith.