Tesla played two series of residency dates in Las Vegas in 2023, in the spring and the fall. This review is for the Saturday, September 30, 2023 show, which was the second show in the second series of gigs.
For decades, Tesla has been going strong. Personal tragedies and personnel changes haven’t stopped the band formerly known as City Kidd from rocking the world, continuing to unleash their sound on the world. Many albums and hit singles later, changing trends in the music world won’t stand in the way of these guys on their way to the top of the rock world.
While often lumped under that dreaded “hair band” umbrella, Tesla had much more of a bluesy, classic rock-influenced sound, and in some ways rocked even harder than their contemporaries of the era. Vocalist Jeff Keith, bassist Brian Wheat, and guitarist extraordinaire Frank Hannon maintain their places in the band, while the lineup is rounded out by guitarist Dave Rude and drummer Steve Brown (brother of former Dokken drummer “Wild” Mick Brown).
One of the first things I noticed upon my arrival at House of Blues on this Saturday night was how long the line was just to get in the venue! Clearly, Tesla still has a strong and loyal fanbase willing to go out and support the group. Still performing live and releasing new songs, the group isn’t one to sit by and let the world pass them by. Many of their songs remain radio anthems to this day, as any fan will attest to. Once inside the House of Blues, the standing room floor area quickly filled up (the venue was utilizing an arrangement on its ground floor with extended table space at the back and the two sides, which is done from time to time, making for a more crowded lower level). That said, I still managed to get close enough that I was probably only five rows or so back from the stage, and had a great view.
With a fairly large discography, I certainly wondered what route the band would go when it came to their performance. Would this be a set mainly featuring the big hit anthems people remember? Would they delve more into deeper cuts? Any unexpected surprises? Choosing a setlist is no easy task, and while the set they played on this night (they’re apparently changing it up each night) did mostly consist of the classic hits, there were a few surprises thrown in for good measure. In addition to the obvious hits, we got a cover of the Aerosmith song “SOS Too Bad” which was dedicated to the recovering Steven Tyler, as well as a few deeper cuts like “Love Me” and “Breakin’ Free,” the latter of which being from 2008’s FOREVER MORE.
Production was just as impressive as the music. Signs posted throughout the venue stated warnings like “Lasers in use.” When you see something like that, you know there’s something interesting around the corner. Tesla’s gig included heavy use of video screens with albums covers, logos, vintage video footage and news clippings, and footage pertinent to the tracks at hand. I appreciate when an artist does not just a concert, but a full-on production. Tesla managed to do this without letting the production elements overwhelm the musical qualities of the evening. I truly wish every band would put in this effort, both in musicianship and how well produced and presented the show is. The conclusion of “Song and Emotion” even featured a tribute on the video screen to deceased Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark, who the tune was written in tribute to.
Of course, if you’re wondering if the songs sounded good, you’ll be pleased to know this Tesla lineup is a powerful one and does justice to the classic hits. Jeff Keith, looking like some sort of long-lost love child of Neil Young and Tom Petty, still sings with one of the most distinct voices in rock. The twin guitar attack was in full force all evening long, and the rhythm section certainly got the job done. There was a brief mishap mid-show where all of the microphones, instruments, and amplifiers cut out cold dead, resulting in a complete silence for about 10-15 minutes, while the issue was rectified, and music resumed and it was back to business as usual. Fortunately, the band and the audience alike didn’t seem to mind too much, and everyone remained in good spirits.
My only issues with the evening were minor. Of course, the band closed with their cover of Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs,” but it seemed strange not to do this acoustic, as that was the arrangement of the version that became a big hit. “Cumin Atcha Live” is another hit I would’ve liked to hear played that sadly wasn’t performed, and it would’ve been nice to get the title cut from the film LAST ACTION HERO and the two newer singles, “Cold Blue Steel” and “Time to Rock.” But these were ultimately minor omissions; to say the evening rocked would be an understatement.
Tesla rocks. That hasn’t changed; these guys are still rocking the world and these gigs at the House of Blues demonstrate beautifully what has made them a kick-ass band over all these years. You owe it to yourself to catch a live Tesla gig if you’re a fan.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by Stephy Muzio for ZRockR Magazine – All Rights Reserved.