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Tesla at the Dodge Theater

By CrpnDeth, Staff Photographer/Writer
Sunday, December 7, 2008 @ 8:52 AM

Includes surprise openers Icon

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Tesla is definitely one of those bands that were underrated during their heyday, and yet lucky enough to ride a second wave. They have had two back to back tours come through Phoenix, and each time the Dodge Theater was close to a sellout. The last time, singer Jeff Keith was just beginning a bout with the flu, and had to cancel several dates following the Phoenix show.

The band has a complete blast every time they come to town, and it shows on stage. They have aged well with time, and their musicianship is testament to that. The band opened with Forever More and I Wanna Live (two of the six tracks they will play tonight off the new release Forever More) and the crowd’s roar was deafening. Best way to follow up such a strong opening – third song classic of course. Barely a few chords of Modern Day Cowboy are played before the crowd is again ignited.

This is the second show/tour I have seen with guitarist Dave Rude, and he blends in perfectly. Frank Hannon has become the character, constantly making faces and just plain having fun. Brian Wheat seems like a bump on a log at times (I have about 2 dozen photos where the expression on his face is the same – totally blank) but livened up before the end of the set. Jeff is Jeff, talking with the crowd and going from side to side, smiles on his face throughout the entire night. Troy Luccketta keeps busy hammering out the beat song after song. Together, all members mesh and deliver a great set to their fans. The band finishes their flawless set and graciously thanks the crowd for being there tonight. The feeling is mutual.

Setlist: Forever More, I Wanna Live, Modern Day Cowboy, Breaking Free, Hang Tough, Heaven’s Trail, So What!, One Day at a Time, The Way It Is, Falling Apart, Love Song, Signs, Into the Now, Lil Suzie, Coming Atcha Live, In a Hole Again, Edison’s Medicine

There was a lot of hype surrounding the show’s openers, Icon. The only thing I can figure is that it was due mostly to the band having formed in Phoenix in 1981. They saw mediocre success, were signed to Shrapnel and later Capital Records, but were released from the roster due to poor sales (as were many 80’s bands). They were later signed to Megaforce, and throughout their career only released three or four discs, and one reissue with bonus tracks. Their last release, Right Between the Eyes, even had Alice Cooper sing on a couple of tracks. Unfortunately, I had never heard of them until tonight.

What better way to enjoy a reunion of sorts opening for a band like Tesla in your hometown? Not to mention, the band also includes a Phoenix legend in their ranks – guitarist David Henzerling (Big Cock/ex-King Kobra) – filling in on bass.

The band was tight, and everything you remember an 80s band to be, but better and without hokey shit. (Rock On) Through the Night, Killer Machine and Rock and Roll Maniac took on a fierce new life. The dual guitars of Danny Wexler and John Aquilino were in sharp form and quickly had the crowd’s attention. After Wexler and Aquilino, drummer Pat Dixon is the only other original member, and he brought solid thunder to the band’s performance. Having never heard the original band before, I have nothing to compare vocalist Scott Hammons to, although he doesn’t need to be. Not an overly charismatic frontman, he got the job done and did it well. The pipes were spot on.

The only other confusing thing from the band tonight was their concentration on their 1984 debut, Icon. The remainder of the setlist contained the remainder of the songs from this disc (World War, Hot Desert Night, On Your Feet and Under My Gun). Nothing was included from Right Between the Eyes or Night of the Crime.

In any event, if this show is an indication of what is to come (the band is planning on a new release in 2009) then you are not going to want to miss it. Anyone in the Phoenix area who missed this show can catch them in a couple weeks at the annual Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding event.

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