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Paul Mann: Tesla Shakes Samala Showroom Walls at Explosive Concert

Original Tesla guitarist, Frank Hannon, wooed audiences at the Samala Showroom with his unpredictable yet captivating antics. Click to view larger
Original Tesla guitarist, Frank Hannon, wooed audiences at the Samala Showroom with his unpredictable yet captivating antics. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Tesla, rock and rollers of ’80s hair band fame, mounted the Samala Showroom at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez to rock a sold out crowd Thursday, March 24, 2016. The band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1986 release of their mega hit album, Mechanical Resonance.

The group opened with a thunderous explosion of rock, perfectly representing the classic hair band sound of the ’80s that they were a significant part of. The sound had an undeniable similarity to that of veteran rockers Aerosmith.

From original the raspy, wailing vocals of lead singer, Jeff Keith, to the mercurial guitar antics of original guitarist extraordinaire, Frank Hannon, the Aerosmith comparison cannot be understated.

Tesla, however, a decade younger than their rock star compatriots in Aerosmith, still play with a more raw and ferocious style associated with younger rock acts.

Its is hard to believe Hannon has been singing with his classic raspy rock voice for over 30 years and still has the throat skills to wail like a teenager, and Hannon’s guitar playing was nothing short of phenomenal, channeling everyone from Peter Frampton with his helium voice box to Jimi Hendrix playing with his teeth.

Original drummer Troy Luccketta and bassist Brian Wheat, who have been playing together since 1981, laid down a thunderous symbiotic rhythm that literally shook the walls of the Samala showroom. The band was rounded out by it’s newest  and only non-original member, the masterful guitarist, Dave Rude.

Benefiting form the always-stellar in-house massive sound system, perfect stage lighting and awesome big-screen live video production, the show was an explosive rock extravaganza that would have been impressive in a large arena venue.

But with the Samala showroom still cut in half for the continued Casino expansion project, the larger than life show wowed the lucky 600 or so music fans at the sold out event.

Jeff Keith, known for the rasp of his voice, belts out a verse. Click to view larger
Jeff Keith, known for the rasp of his voice, belts out a verse. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Tesla took to the stage to a roar from the crowd as the band launched right into “Rock Me To The Top.” Then it was ear plug time when the explosive sound system seemed to turn up a notch as Tesla slid right into “Edison’s Medicine,” which had the audience on their feet with their fists pumping voices singing along on the chorus.

“Gettin’ Better” came next, completing the band’s trio of classic rock songs. Hannon then announced that the band would be playing a song that they hadn’t played in 28 years: “Cover Queen.” 

A quick check on, indeed shows that the band has only played the song live 19 times since it appeared on their first album.

After several more classic rock tunes, the band then really showed their range by performing an acoustic set, inspired by their 1990 album, Five Man Acoustical Jam.

They played an inspiring version of their cover hit song from that album Signs, which was originally a hit for the one hit wonders Five Man Electrical Band back in 1971.

The acoustic jam also featured some innovative covers including a morph into “Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead and the classic “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin.

The group switched it up again for “Life is a River,” which featured bassist Brian Wheat on keys and guitarist Dave Rude on bass guitar.

Just as the band returned to their biggest rock hits, the traditional opening of the front of the stage brought a flood of ecstatic fans swarming the area.

The band, energized by the animated fans, played with a renewed sense of vigor, pitching endless guitar pics into the crowd and letting the audience sing in the microphone and strum the guitars.

By the time the band closed their 100 minute set with an encore of “Modern Day Cowboy,” the crowd had gone into a ballistic bliss state, some even holding up a few of the 14 million albums that the band has sold in reverence.

Long live Tesla! Long live rock!

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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