Everyone has that one band that you love, whether it’s from a particular time in your life, a favorite lead singer or guitarist or just the one you relate to the most. One of my all-time favorites rolled through the DFW Metroplex last night, brought some friends to open for them and put on one hell of a show at the new Toyota Music factory. Tesla got their start playing small clubs in Sacramento, California but has risen to record eight studio albums & tour all over the world. My introduction to the band occurred back in the mid-80’s with my college roommate as we wore out the Mechanical Resonance tape on many road trips.
Weapons of Anew started the evening off with some good old-fashioned hard rock that featured plenty of heavy tunes and tons of hard rock. Front man Ray West was all over the stage as he belted out the lyrics to a half dozen songs. Lead guitarist Freddy Ordine ripped through quite a few solos as new guitarist Kris Norris mainly stayed off in the shadows doing his own thing. Bassist Stefan Reno Cutrupi laid down some thumping bass lines; especially during “This Moment” while drummer Chris Manfre banged away on his drum kit. Touring in support of their new album The Collision of Love and Hate, these guys displayed great skill blazing through songs such as “Killshot” which was full of double-bass kicking by Manfre, “Speed” with its wailing guitars and Kris’s searing solo and the set ending, extremely heavy “Blood From Stone”.
Vocalist/guitarist Tom Keifer (Cinderella) has been rocking the world since most of us were in high school. After being discovered by KISS in the early 80’s, it was another rock superstar that got helped him get his big time break. Since then, Tom’s had plenty of ups and downs
but keeps on making gritty, blues rock that appeals to the masses. Opening his set with the 1995 song “Still Climbing”, Keifer & his band used it as a warm up because everything after that one was amazing. As the first few notes of Cinderella’s “Save Me” reverberated from the speakers, the audience lit up and began screaming out the lyrics. Tom’s vocals were coming into focus and his solo guitar section was magnificent. The southern, twangy blues of “The Way Life Goes” gave way to the hard driving “Shake Me” from 1996’s Night Songs.
Slowing it down a bit, Tom sat down at the piano for a beautiful duet on “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” with his wife Savannah. Before the song was over, he turned the piano over to her and shredded his way through the ending guitar solo. Without so much as a note change, they transitioned seamlessly into “Nobody’s Fool” which might have been the most passionate & powerful song of their set. The grinding blues of “Solid Ground” was quickly forgotten as they tore into the easily recognizable intro to “Night Songs”. Once again, the audience lost its mind as the band played their hearts out and Tom screamed out the lyrics to this hard & heavy classic.
A sweet guitar duel led the way for “Coming Home” just before the semi-acoustic, free-flowing “Shelter Me” turned into a big jam session. When Tom belted out the first few lines of The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends”, the audience once again roared its approval and when Tom still had enough voice left to sing “Gypsy Road” – the audience was left completely fulfilled. It was a great set by a great American musician and his band = one that will be remembered for a long time.
As I mentioned earlier, Tesla was just one of those bands that came along at the right time in my life and has stuck with me for a long while. Their straightforward rock sound grabbed my attention early and I’m extremely thankful that they are still together today. Seizure-inducing red strobe lights greeted their fans as wailing twin guitars tore into the 2014 hit “MPA”. Its lyrics are very fitting in today’s climate and when guitarist Frank Hannon did his best Peter Frampton “talk box” impression, I knew this show was going to be special. Brian Wheat’s deep bass notes sparked the entry of “Into the Now” as Troy Luccketta’s drums and Dave Rude’s thrashing guitar work kept the pace going. Lead vocalist Jeff Keith’s voice is of the “love it or hate it” variety but I think that it’s very unique and works well with their style of music. He is a walking, talking human being full of emotion and his stage presence is undeniably vibrant.
Frank’s acoustic & electric guitar playing highlighted “The Way It Is” while Brian’s bass intro started off “Hang Tough” in such a fashion that it elicited the loudest roar of the evening to that point. Dave Rude got the staring role for “Heaven’s Trail” as Frank once again amazed with his slide guitar strokes later in the song. Harking back to maybe their most recognizable album of all time, the guys all took their seats on stools center stage while Troy sat behind a smaller, more compact drum set for their short trip through a few songs from Five Man Acoustical Jam. Kicking it off with “Comin’ Atcha Live”, all of them were hitting it note for note as the guitars led the song into a seamless transition into their version of the Greatful Dead’s “Truckin'”. Brian Wheat’s fantastic piano playing gave way to Frank’s exquisite Spanish guitar tune during “Paradise” just before Jeff stole the show singing “Signs” at the top of his lungs.
Stepping back into “electric” mode, Tesla reeled off “What You Give” while old photos of the band flashed on the video panels behind them as Jeff dedicated the song to everyone in the audience as a special thank you for their long lasting support. Dave’s searing intro to “Edison’s Medicine” was made even sweeter as echoed the nice bass solo that Brian was playing in the background. “Love Song” was made even sweeter than in the past by having Frank and Dave both stroking acoustical guitars as I closed my eyes for a bit and was transported back to the 80’s for a brief moment. Finishing off their set with the thrilling “Little Suzi” with Frank playing acoustically set the stage for the twin guitar work during “Modern Day Cowboy” as Tesla gave their adoring fans everything they had. I saw a lot of exhausted (and happy) faces on the way out of the Toyota Music Factory and was thoroughly impressed with the evening’s show.
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