Tesla / Wayward Sons / Flash Fires Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     June 21, 2019    
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Tesla / Wayward Sons / Flash Fires - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (UK) - 16 June 2019

I had never had seen Sacramento legends Tesla live before due to several foiled attempts. They were back in the UK for the first time in many years for an appearance at Download, so also added a headline show at their regular haunt in London, the very lovely Shepherd's Bush Empire, so I made the trip down the M40 to the capital. The opening band was local youngsters Flash Fires who were completely OK and inoffensive with some half-decent tunes, but the overall Indie-ish sound isn't really my cup of tea and to be honest I didn't think the singer's voice was interesting enough, but they went down fairly well.

Next up was Wayward Sons, the first time I had seen Toby Jepson and his latest band. I've nothing against Toby, far from it, but I really don't think the Wayward Sons songs are actually that good. The opening salvo of 'Alive' and 'Until The End' were the best of their set, but the decidedly poor sound did them little favours, though Toby's voice did rise well above the muddy instrumentation. With a new album imminent they threw a couple of newbies in (one titled 'The Jokes On You') but they did little for me and are unlikely to change my opinion on the band. It was wrong for me to hope for something from Little Angels (and no, it didn't come), but it would have given me something to enjoy from their set.

Tesla's latest release 'Shock' has been something of a Marmite-release, many fans opposed to the obvious Leppard-isms within it. I happen to love it and was delighted when they opened up with the corking 'Tied To The Tracks' from said album, following it up with the golden oldie 'Modern Day Cowboy'. After the poor showing during Wayward Sons set I had concerns, but the sound quality was immense throughout Tesla's set. Singer Jeff Keith certainly has a unique voice and he sounded absolutely amazing tonight, his familiar rasp as clear as a bell, but he has something of an unusual stage manner, retreating to the back corner of the stage during the solo spots and letting guitarist Frank Hannon do the majority of the talking. Likewise, bassist Brian Wheat only rarely ventured to the front of the stage for the occasional backing vocal. Hannon's fellow axeman Dave Rude has been with the band for thirteen years now and you forget he isn't an original member.

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They dug deep into their back catalogue and unearthed deeper cuts like 'Breakin' Free', 'Need Your Lovin'' and 'Miles Away', the latter arguably the heaviest song of the set, while 'Be A Man' has been resurrected from their classic 'Great Radio Controversy' album for this tour. The recent 'Taste Like' and 'Shock' also made their presence felt, the album's title-track sounding much heavier in its live guise. Elsewhere it was pure hits, 'Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)' and 'Changes' appeared earlier on, but when they delivered the 'Psychotic Supper' triple-salvo of 'Stir It Up', 'Call It What You Want' and the magnificent 'What You Give' you could feel the atmosphere went up a notch. Following the final visit to 'Shock' they gave us a furious 'Edison's Medicine', enticing the first real sing-along moment of the show.

However, that was nothing compared to the treat that was to come when two acoustic guitars on stands appeared on stage; firstly Frank Hannon gave us a brief version of The Beatles' 'Blackbird' then slipped straight into the delicate intro to their pièce de résistance, the majestic 'Love Song', and the cheer almost took the Empire's roof off – this surely has to be one of the best Rock ballads ever written so to finally see it performed live in all its splendour was a true bucket-list moment for me.

How to top that? Well, they kept it simple; the acoustic guitars remained on stage for the remaining two straight-ahead, sing-along Rock 'n' Roll numbers, 'Little Suzi' and 'Signs', and that was it. No going off stage then returning for an encore, just a good old, no gimmick Rock show.

Ant Heeks

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