Tesla has returned to Las Vegas for five more residency shows this week at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay Resort, following five dates earlier in 2023. This review, which recaps the show on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, is courtesy of Taylor T. Carlson and our contributor Joe Schaeffer. The band has two more shows this week tonight and tomorrow, October 7, 2023, at House of Blues in Las Vegas.
Tesla’s been rocking the world since the 1980s. With a heavier, more blues-driven rock sound than many of their contemporaries, they had as much in common with their classic rock predecessors as they did the other rockers that were on therise in the decade of decadence. Once known as City Kidd, the group has never gone away aside from a brief hiatus in the late 90s. Classic members Jeff Keith on vocals, Frank Hannon on guitar, and Brian Wheat on bass, are as strong as ever, with the band rounded out by guitarist Dave Rude (in the band since 2006) and drummer Steve Brown (brother of retired Dokken drummer Wild Mick Brown).
It’s no secret I love the music of Tesla. Since they put out their debut album, Mechanical Resonance, way back in 1986, they’ve followed it up with countless efforts that were just as impressive, from the heavy to the melodic.
Few bands have rocked the acoustic and electric sounds so well and have transitioned so seamlessly between the two extremes.This was actually my second Tesla show during the Vegas residency; I’d previously attended the Saturday, September 30th gig. But the fact that I was geared up and impressed enough to attend multiple nights should say something about how solid the musicianship is these days within the quintet.
The House of Blues is a fantastic venue with both assigned balcony seating and a standing-room-only floor, though disappointingly, as they had done at the previous show, three sections of the floor were closed off for additional dining table seating. This made the floor area a bit more cramped than usual, and believe me, even with this being a Wednesday night, Tesla brought in a pretty strong crowd.
As he had done previously at the Saturday gig, Eddie Trunk introduced the show, proudly proclaiming Tesla to be a “real” rock band who doesn’t use backing tracks and who is just as good now as they’ve ever been. This fan certainly agrees with Mr. Trunk’s claims. The band also went all out with their production; signs posted inside and outside the House of Blues gave a disclaimer that laser lights would be in use. And, they most certainly were, in addition to an elaborate video screen that showed things like clips and photos from the band’s history, dedications, and animations and video footage appropriate to whatever song would be playing at the time like hearts during “Love Me” and footage of outlaws on horseback during “Modern Day Cowboy.”
Utilizing these elements, the right way is tricky. Too elaborate overshadows the musicians and the songs. Using them not enough just looks like any old generic rock show. Tesla’s crew found the happy medium here, enhancing their gig without detracting from it. There were luckily no equipment malfunctions of any kind; the band’s instruments/amps/etc. had all cut out on Saturday during the performance of “Love Me,” thankfully Lady Luck was on their side this time around.
Choosing a setlist is no easy task, and Tesla even announced at the gig they’d be switching the songs up slightly. The setlist was mostly identical to the one at the previous gig, though two tracks were swapped out. We lost “Lady Luck” and the Aerosmith cover “SOS Too Bad”, instead gaining “Call It What You Want” and “I Wanna Live,” the latter of which being from the underrated Forever More record, which was also represented with “Breakin’ Free.”
Unsurprisingly, the setlist was mostly the massive hits fans know and love, but these were certainly killer renditions of them. My few minor quibbles with the setlist include the omission of “Cumin’ Atcha Live” and the two more recent singles put out by the band, “Cold Blue Steel” and “Time to Rock.” Leaving out the latter pair is disappointing because these tunes show the band still rocks and writes amazing songs. It also seemed strange doing “Signs” (the evening’s encore/closer) as an electric song, when it was an acoustic take on the Five Man Electrical Band favorite that became a hit in the first place.
Still, these criticisms are minor. This was an amazing rock show, and the band is as tight as ever. Frank Hannon remains one of rock’s most underrated guitarists. Tesla still rocks. Since the 80s these guys have lost nothing. As Eddie Trunk stated before the gig, they sound as powerful as ever, and their live show (which truly IS live, with no backing tracks) must be seen to be appreciated. Don’t pass up a chance to see Tesla live on stage. This is real, genuine rock and roll the way it was meant to be heard and experienced.