Tesla - Five Man Acoustical Jam Tour 2002

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Sunday, March 10, 2002 @ 7:01 AM

Telsa Live At Irving Plaza, NY

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I first saw Tesla opening for David Lee Roth on his Eat 'Em And Smile tour at The New Haven Coliseum back in...1987? Their first tour, I believe. 1987. (Pause for breath...) *Sigh* I remember that show well, because I hadn't as yet heard of Tesla, let alone heard their music. What I do remember was Tesla taking the stage to a half-filled NH Coliseum (everyone else was 'sparkin' up’ in the parking lot...anyone remember those days?)and calling out over the PA, "Heh-low New Havinn! Wee Ahh Tesla!" which was met with the sound of crickets and coughing. I was not interested in Tesla, but rather a buxom blonde babe a few seats over who was spilling out of her yellow lycra top. Ah, the ‘80s. However, that babe had a DLR backstage sticker on her left, um... anyway; that wasn't going to happen. So I watched Tesla, and I was slowly -- I was 19 and jaded -- slowly won over by the time they played "Little Suzi." I never once thought, "Wow! These guys are going to be HUGE!" Rather, I thought, "Those guys were cool. I wonder if that blonde got to meet Dave..."

Of course, she did. And, of course, Tesla got huge. To my credit, however, a few years later I would be living in Boston, working at a record store for nothing but the occasional free cds and tickets, and was lucky enough to attend the now-famous show at The Channel, I believe it was called. All acoustic. I don't remember any buxom blondes that night, although I'm sure there must have been at least ONE. I do remember seeing Tesla do what they did and thinking, "That was cool. Rock music played on acoustic guitars. Nobody does that!" Even though plenty of guys in Boston WERE doing that (Berkeley School Of Music), no hard rock band, no image-oriented band of the ‘80s would ever consider doing an ACOUSTIC show. Not then. But along came Tesla with their little club tour, and -- BOOM! (Or should I write, "boom!"?) because not long after that came... MTV Unplugged. Well, what do you know?

March 7th, 2002

It is 23 days to my 34th birthday, it is six months after "9-11", and my love life is falling apart. Plus, there hasn't been a decent hard-rock act to come through town since Megadeth last October. What's broken-hearted rock fan to do? What else? Go see Tesla and remember some good times, and maybe make some new ones.

So there I am, quietly standing amidst a crowd of like-aged men and women, sipping a drink, having a cig, and hoping that on this beautiful day in March, there might be a buxom blonde babe spilling out of a yellow lycra top. No such luck. This is NEW YORK, after all. All around me are comers from the five boroughs and the Tri-State area (guessing from the dialects, definitely New Jersey...); but no buxom blondes. Not on the floor, anyway. A quick scan of the balcony, which, stage right at Irving Plaza, is a VIP section. At NYC rock shows, you're likely to see Scott Ian, Sebastian Bach, Stupid Jesse from MTV, or SOMEBODY hanging over the ledge with some babe or other. Didn't see 'em. Pretty girls, though. With guys, of course. Oh, well.

So, back to Tesla.

With no opening act, save the 35 minutes of rock videos (Ozzy, a slight foreshadowing) and Biohazard's "New World Order" playing on the PA (cool, but, WTF?), Tesla sauntered across the stage to a truly excited New York audience (especially me). Jeff Keith looks pretty much the same to me as he did many years ago -- sort of a cross between Joni Mitchell and Mick Jagger, in a light brown button shirt, soon to be covered in sweat. Guitarist Frank Hannon looks like Robbin Crosby meets Billy Duffy (guitars included 6 and 12-strings, plus an SG that he would break out for the leads on "Love Song"). Drummer Troy Lucketta looks a lot like the Aerosmith drummer, short hair and same build. Tommy Skeoch has a pink stripe in his mane of black hair, and wears a Ramones shirt. Brian Wheat has a NYPD shirt on, and although it seems as if Brian does look a little worse for wear, he fits right in with the happy-go-lucky vibe that the band is exuding. The vibe, I think, is "bar band, originals and covers". Cool, fine. I have a drink.

After warm greetings and a few tune-ups, the band opened up with "Cumin Atcha Live" and, just as you might expect from their 1990 mulit-platinum "Five Man Acoustical Jam" disc, segued into The Grateful Dead's "Truckin'." A well-chosen opener to set the mood for what became an evening of smiles and sing-a-longs.

A goofy and impish Jeff Keith prowled about the stage drinking beers and playing with the audience- and teasing the rest of his band members. As a front-man, Jeff Keith is low-key and lets his voice and enthusiasm do all the work. Thank God. The last thing this city needs is ANOTHER rock band, or fucking anybody, who wants the audience to know how "deeply concerned" about "9-11" he is. Blah, blah, blah. Leave the stupid stage banter to Paul Stanley, I say. And, mercifully, wonderfully, Jeff Keith didn't sugar us to death, or at all. He was pretty animated, but Mr. Keith found time to stay seated and focused for all the numbers of a set that included: "Lodi," "Little Suzi" (Awesome!), "Modern Day Cowboy," "Love Song" (the chorus of which left me in tears like some teen-age girl... never mind…), "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" (Incredible!), "We Can Work It Out", "What You Give", "Change In The Weather," "Paradise," and of course, "Signs." Also featured were: "Show Me The Way" (that Peter Frampton song with the crazy "Wow-wowowowow" noise, sung by Frank and JK), and "Sympathy For The Devil." Frank also did a nice flamenco-classical thing and sang... ARRRGHH! I forgot the name but YOU WOULD DEFINITELY KNOW IT! DAMN IT! Tommy sang his country song that's on the "Five Man Acoustical Jam": "Tommy's Down Home" (very, very funny!).

The closer, that is, the encore, began as what JK introduced as a ballad, then raged into the biggest surprise of the evening, "War Pigs." I can't even begin to explain the weirdness of hearing Tesla do this, let alone acoustically; but it was well-summed up, in the words of some extra from The Sopranos, "Fuckin' killah, man! That shit is awesome! I LUHV Sabbath!" Yeah, man. Right on.

So, to recap:

Tesla- still good. Damn good.

Me, a sucker, for crying during "Love Song" and not remembering if they did "The Way It Is", not to mention a couple of song titles...

Only disappointment: No buxom blonde babes.

SO- go see Tesla live on this tour, you'll have fun... but if your relationship is on the skids, a Tesla show is no place to be...unless you're man enough to cry.

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