California hard rockers, Tesla, named after the famous inventor, Nikola Tesla, has reinvented itself over the years. Their risky move in the 90’s to strip down their electric guitars and play acoustically transformed the music business and inspired a generation of rockers ‘unplugging.’ Their current tour is in support of their latest album, “Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions,” released in 2011 with some acoustic remakes of their earlier songs and a few brand new songs like “Second Street” and “Better Without You.”
HOUSE OF BLUES
Tesla played a very packed House of Blues Saturday, January 7, 2012.
With over 25 years of playing their ‘blues metal’ has built a very strong fan-base with a very diverse following; metalheads, hippies and blue-collar types, kids in their 20’s and older fans of 30’s and 40’s. Opening band, Built By Stereo, warmed up the crowd. Tesla played for about an hour and twenty minutes. They had a strong start and a stronger finish. Lead singer Jeff Keith, sporting a football jersey with his name on the back, belted out the hits; “Comin’ Atcha Live / Truckin,” “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Signs.”
The meat of the show was really for diehard Tesla fans as it pertained to lesser-known songs and songs from the new album including “Second Street” and “Better Without You.”
Playing acoustically is an animal all to itself. Some fans prefer the unplugged versions of Tesla’s rock songs while others like the original electric versions. This is not the band I saw over 20 years ago. Their energy was not the same. Mostly, the band sat on stools like any other acoustic jam. Keith got up and walked around a bit to connect with the audience. Guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude showered the crowd with guitar picks. The packed house burst into singing “Love Song.” A pleasant surprise in Tesla’s set was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You.”
Chad Plummer was my guest at the show. It was his idea to watch the show near the bar so I could use the bar to lean on when taking notes. Good idea, Chad. If the energy of the show was better I might have moved closer to the stage. I never moved.
Elvis (Lederer) has left the Venetian. The writing on this wall said ‘Shut up and Drink.’ The bar patrons were all mesmerized by the three drummers, two guitarists and one bassist that make up Uberschall, which means ‘supersonic’ in German. This very fitting name may not ring a bell, but the band members are mostly from the current line-up of the Blue Man Group. Uberschall formed in 2000 when the members of Blue Man Group sought out an improvisational and experimental outlet away from the PVC pipes and blue faces. At roughly 12am, the band members strolled into the bar, one by one, setting up their equipment. Guitars were tuned. Drums were hit. The last drummer, Todd Waetzig, arrived to set up.
Soon after, Waetzig started warming up, pounding the drums and setting a rhythm. The two other drummers followed suit as if they were a part of a loud drum circle. The guitarists chimed in and the musicians rode the wave of an improvisational journey not knowing exactly where they would end up. They just felt the music and followed their gut. The music flowed in one direction and at some point went in another direction. The pace slowed down and then picked up. They jammed for about 20 minutes or so and took a short break. The follow-up jam session started out very differently with a slower, mellower pace set by Elvis Lederer, 40’s, the guitarist and the band’s general manager. His soft wailing vibrated throughout the bar like whale sounds, summoning his band mates to find their places. One bar patron started dancing to the wailing sounds and psychedelic vibes. The pace picked up. Drummers pounded into a frenzy. You get a sense that the session is very different every time. Uberschall plays at Double Down on the last Sunday of every month.