It was only too bad that elbow room was at such a precious premium that fans could barely move. The Scout Bar really ought to think about the concept of keeping an aisle across the backside of the room and in front of the soundboard. The bar also seemed ill-prepared for the hard drinking crowd, as they ran out of Shiner Bock before Tesla even hit the stage! But the crowd admirably rose above the sardine-can atmosphere to provide the type of inspirational feedback that powers a band higher.
Fans reminisced about how Tesla blew bands like Poison and Great White off the stage when serving as an opening act in the late â??80s, as well as giving Def Leppard a run for their money when the British pop metal kings were at the height of their popularity on the 1987-88 Hysteria tour.
After opening with a couple of rocking newer tunes, the band threw down “Modern Day Cowboy,” their breakthrough song that set the hard rock world on fire when its video debuted on MTV's Headbanger's Ball. Fists pumped into the air as the band transported the mostly Gen-X crowd back to 1986 for one of the best tunes of the era that still stands strong.
An inspired selection of hard rockers and melodic sing-along hits followed, with the band focusing heavily on their first two albums — Mechanical Resonance and 1988's The Great Radio Controversy. If the show had a flaw, it was that the band's vastly underrated third album, 1991's Psychotic Supper, had only one song played.
The combo of “Hang Tough” > “Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)” from the second album got the room really going, with guitarist Frank Hannon ripping off smoking hot licks throughout and the energy level threatening to raise the roof. Guitarist Tommy Skeoch, the only original member not still in the band, was missed but Dave Rude filled in admirably.
Vocalist Jeff Keith was in high spirits, and why not, with the way the crowd was feeding back so much positive energy. Keith and his mates must be drinking from some type of elixir of eternal youth, because they sure don't look like they've aged 22 years since hitting the scene.
“The Way it Is” provided the night's first big sing along and one of the best jams, with the lyrics about leaving a still-loving relationship behind striking a huge chord with the crowd. Hannon's fills hit a melodic high while drummer Troy Lucketta and bassist Brian Wheat layed down a rock-solid bottom end, with Hannon then ripping off a smokingly sweet lead.
“Love Song” and “What You Give” offered further sing-along action, with Hannon playing his double-necked Gibson SG, just like Jimmy Page's, to deliver the ringing12-string rhythm parts.
Tesla's classic cover of The Five Man Electrical Band's “Signs” was another triumph. Tesla's acoustic rendition of the song was a huge hit in 1990, but here the fully electrified version brought out perhaps the loudest sing along of the night.
“Cumin' Atcha Live”, one of the heaviest rockers from the band's debut, brought an intense conclusion to the set with Hannon delivering yet another face-melting solo. The crowd seemed ready for plenty more though, chanting the band's name as they briefly left the stage.
The band encored with another melodic sing-along classic from the first album, “Little Suzi,” that got the crowd going one more time before heading out into the refreshingly cool night air. If the reaction was any indication, Tesla could easily visit South Texas again later this year and expect to draw an even larger crowd (hint hint local promoters!)