Sunday 16th June 2019
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
You may be mistaken for thinking that Tesla is a type of electric car associated with the entrepreneur, Elon Musk, but actually they are an American Rock Band that went under the radar (in the UK - they had huge album sales in the States) since forming in the mid-80's.The band were designated a "Hair Metal" band back then, but the description is a limiting one because they are clearly influenced by many other Rock styles, whilst encompassing the Blues.
Their name is derived from the inventor and electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla (like Elon's electric car company): the story goes that Tesla invented the radio, but Marconi took the credit, which inspired the title of the group's second album 'The Great Radio Controversy'. In fact, Tesla are a band that cannot resist punning on all things electric in the titles of their songs and also on the name of their latest album 'Shock' released in March of this year.
And their innovation doesn't end there. Way back in 1987, Def Leppard and Tesla did a historic 'in the round' show that was the first time a Rock concert was done in the centre of an arena - an era when Def Leppard’s 'Hysteria' album was breaking platinum status and Tesla's first album 'Mechanical Resonance' was turning heads on MTV.
In fact he first time we saw the Northern California band was opening the Arrow Rock Festival in Biddinghuizen in June 2007 and again in Holland a year later at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer. Anyway, eleven years down the line, and two days after they performed at Download they are playing London's Shepherd's Bush Empire on Father's Day with great support from Wayward Sons and Flash Fires.
And it’s from that new album that the band, consisting of Brian Wheat - bass, Frank Hannon - guitar, Jeff Keith - vocals, Troy Luccketta - drums and Dave Rude - guitar, launch their set with 'Tied To The Tracks' a Glam-Rock infused number with a judicious amount of slide guitar thrown in, which is what sets this band apart from others in the classic 80's Rock genre. The versatility of Hannon’s guitar playing harks back to more 60's Heavy Rock bands. Indeed, production duties for 'Shock' were handed to Phil Collen, amigo and lead guitarist out of the aforementioned Def Leppard, a particularly astute choice, because he brings an 80’s Pop sensibility to the overall sound which suits the band.
Jeff Keith bears an uncanny resemblance to Steve Tyler whose stagecraft he apes as he stalks the stage reaching out to the front row. Usually the band shares a bill with other Classic Rock bands in larger arena, but the Empire is the right size to allow them to showcase a set-list of 16 songs culled from all of their 6 studio albums. Next they play their famous hit 'Modern Day Cowboy', surprisingly because in the past it has served as an encore for their live sets, before segueing into the strident 'Be a Man', again with the wailing slide-guitar sound. This is followed by 'Taste Like' whose opening was very similar in form and structure to The Who’s 'Won’t Get Fooled Again' before transforming chameleon-like into the Black Sabbath inspired 'Miles Away'.
Demonstrating the crowd-pleasers that they are, they started to throw plectrums and papers with scribbled stage instructions into the crowd for 'What You Give' and as a special treat, and to demonstrate their variety, they played a rendition of the Beatles 'Blackbird' with Hannon on double-neck guitar. This was truly an electrifying performance and a very happy Father's Day.
Ivan De Mello