Tesla’s UK tour in support of their excellent new album Simplicity was a blink and you miss it affair, this first London date preceding an appearance at Download the following day.
But, blending old and new, it was a timely reminder of the enduring qualities of a band who may have come to prominence in what we know as the hair metal scene of the eighties but always owed more to the musicianship and no frills attitude of classic seventies hard rock.
The initial sound was deafening but the atmosphere cooking as they opened with the relatively recent ‘I Wanna Live’, then ‘Hang Tough’. Jeff Keith still has his trademark rasp and works the crowd superbly, but his peculiar mannerisms and nonsensical comments called to mind a seven year old trapped in a man’s body.
Perhaps for that reason it was left to guitarist Frank Hannon to introduce their new single ‘So Divine’, with several twists and turns and excellent guitar solos from him and Dave Rude. Surprisingly perhaps, MP3 was the sole other cut from the new album.
Part of Tesla’s appeal has always been their versatility of styles, and while ‘Heaven’s Trail’ and the slow burning ‘Mama’s Fool’ showed them at their dirtiest and bluesiest, notably with Frank’s guitar, ‘Into The Now’ had a more modern feel with a cacophonous middle section almost nu metal, and ‘What You Give’ and ‘The Way It Is’ showed their way with a ballad, the latter building from slow beginnings to an epic lengthy solo from Frank.
The show really warmed up with ‘Signs’ and ‘Love Song’, with its truly beautiful acoustic guitar intro, before Frank fondly reminisced about how their love for playing in London was sparked by their legendary pair of Marquee shows (one of which I attended) in 1987.
The crowd took over the singing of ‘Gettin Better ‘(omitted from their very similar set at Frontiers Rock Festival in Italy last month), leading into a series of ‘Mechanical Resonance’ classics with the twin guitars of ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ and a rousing ‘Little Suzi’, before a sole encore of a fast and furious ‘Cumin Atcha Live’, with one of my all-time favourite twin guitar duels.
‘Edison’s Medicine’ might have rounded off the night nicely but never mind. The great thing about Tesla never having been slaves to fashion is that their music doesn’t date and this performance showed that quality never goes out of style.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
Album review (Simplicity)
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