By Jen X
The temperature outside might have been below freezing, but it was scorching hot inside Piere’s Entertainment Center in Fort Wayne, Ind., with a packed floor and upper deck. Tesla was hitting the stage once again, stopping by on their world tour to rock the rafters.
Baltimore, Md.’s Cinder Road took stage at 8 p.m. to a receptive audience. Though I was unfamiliar with their music, I was impressed. They performed with a lot of energy and got the crowd pumped into a headbanging frenzy, which was rather odd as I found their set to be more of a radio-friendly rock/pop metal than heavy metal grinding attitude. With great vocals, hard driving guitars, booming bass and kick drum behind them, I’m sure they made some diehard fans at this show. Singer/guitarist Mike Ruocco gave me the distinct impression of a Ville Vallo/Gavin Rossdale type, with a friendly attitude and appreciation for the participation of many concert-goers who were singing along with each song. Check out their debut album Superhuman and hit one of their upcoming shows to see what they are about. If what you’re hearing on local radio stations is to your liking, Cinder Road will race to the top of your favorites list, as I found them to be levels above most crap being played to the masses at this time.
At 9:15 p.m., Tesla came out to thunderous applause that continued for most of their two-hour set. This was the fifth time I’d seen them live, with the last being in 2005. I don’t know why I’d stayed away so long. Hearing them play and being in the presence of Jeff Keith and his bandmates was like being with old friends. The graciousness Keith exudes to the crowd is amazing and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before–he frequently mouthed “Thank you” to individuals in between singing. Plus, the band’s sound is better than ever. They played a tight set that included songs from all five of their studio releases and their cover song compilation Real to Reel.
There were many personal highlights from the show, the most memorable being Keith telling the short story of their latest song “Dear Private Ledbetter.” He said it was a “song of appreciation” to many people whose names they don’t know. He then said they are hoping to put out their new release in September and as of yet haven’t come up with a name. “Private Ledbetter” is going to be their next big hit, with a catchy hook and lyrics that make you pay attention. Another highlight was Frank Hannon and Dave Rude taking the stage together for a double jam and playing the intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” then leading into “Love Song.” I always love watching Hannon play and was excited when he brought out his doubleneck 12- and six-string guitar that he has played for more than 20 years. the late Steve Clark from Def Leppard gave it to him.
This was the first time I’d seen Rude playing with Tesla and though he had big shoes to fill due the 2006 parting of Tommy Skeotch, the musical transition is without flaw. Since he was 6 when the band formed in 1984, it’s a blessing he grew toward the more blues-influenced rock that has more honesty and integrity than a lot of the synthesized music that would’ve been popular during his teen years.
Brian Wheat spent the majority of the show providing his perfected bass playing out of the spotlight. He seems so in his element letting the others take the front row while he works his magic from the back. Of course, also off of the main view was Tommy Luccketta on drums, though you got glimpses of his smiling face between the blur of his arms pounding out the beats.
Tesla always has been about the vocals, guitars and drums with the occasional organ or piano thrown in. Their motto of “No Machines” frequents the majority of their releases since they don’t use synthesizers or anything to distort their sound. They’ve continued to follow this motto and have made a growing fan base out of people that weren’t even around when their debut hit the racks. They recently released a new seven-track iTunes digital download exclusive EP titled A Peace of Time. It was recorded live and includes “alternate recordings of Tesla classics” along with covers of a few of their favorite songs. Hopefully there will be a new CD coming this fall, followed by another round of touring. If so, I will be there in the front row singing right along to the songs I consider part of my life history.
Into the Now
Modern Day Cowboy
Ez Come Ez Go
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Dear Private Ledbetter
What You Give
Edison’s Medicine (Man Out Of Time)
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