Tesla at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom Live Review

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Throwback Thursday #tbt
Article originally published on July 5, 2012

Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Review by Ann James Joles

I still have a big grin on my face from Tesla’s sold out July 5th show at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. Tesla sets the bar high for their performance, reaches that mark, and then just kicks ass!

I saw Tesla in 1987 while I was in college and before they were “TESLA.” We made it to that show at Portland, Maine’s Cumberland County Civic Center just in time to see them take the stage. I remember standing there and staring, probably with my mouth hanging open. Road weary and ready to punch the engineering students I’d driven to the show, I literally just stood watching Jeff Keith commanding the stage, vocals howling, hips shaking, knowing I was seeing something special. This guy was it. The engineers discussed all the cool Nikola Tesla facts they knew during the act. I remember looking onstage, and then looking at my bunch of young men. Suddenly, I knew what it felt like to draw the short straw.

So twentysomething years later, I was back at a Tesla show. They opened with “Comin’ Atcha Live.” The room blew wide open when Dave Rude and Frank Hannon took over the edge of the stage, guitars alive. And Jeff Keith? Well, he certainly still commands every inch of the stage. Tesla kicked out a long set list of fan favorites including “Lil’ Suzie,” “Gettin’ Better,” and “Signs.” It goes without saying that the band is flawless live.

Hannon and Rude seem to take turns at being remarkable, thankfully, so fans can take in everything. Bassist, Brian Wheat, and drummer, Troy Luccketta, are engaged and vibrant as they play, holding everything together. Likewise, Jeff Keith is just amazing vocally and provides a ton of personality and enough theatrics to go down as the consummate front man.

Did I say the band kicks ass?

One of the items on my checklist for a great show is the energy and sincerity that a band brings to the performance. Tesla delivers each song as if it is important, essential even, and connects to the crowd. I grew up in a house full of solid, now considered classic, rock’n’roll. No gimmicks, just good music with heart and pounding rhythm like Tesla. It was great to see that brand is still alive and doing fine. I could go on, but fans know all this.

I’d like instead to offer a few favorite little moments from the show:

*Jeff Keith appeared in the Ballroom about 30 minutes before the opener. He ran up on stage, yelled, waved, and then walked to the back door. People ran to meet him, and he stopped and obliged them with a visit. The little boy sitting near me went up to Keith with his dad and returned all smiles, lit up by a few minutes of something extra special.

*”Signs” has always been a favorite tune of mine because of the quiet defiance and simplicity in the message. I was thrilled to see the song still performed with that level of intensity. Keith even flashed The Bird. Now you know what kind of girl I am.

*I’ve seen several shows at the Casino Ballroom, it is a solidly built venue, safe and sound, but with the opening chords of “Mama’s Fool” the floor literally started to shake as the crowd pounded along with Luccketta’s drums. The crowd was in full-blown rock’n’roll. That sort of energy carries me for days.

*And finally, I always find something new in a band’s work when I hear it live, and for this show it was “Love Song.” I’ve heard this song dozens of times, but this time as Keith delivered the lyrics I heard them as uplifting, generous, encouraging. The world needs more of that.

Heading to the restroom right after, I heard a woman tell her friend “this round of chemo is really knocking it out of me.” I call that a piece of perspective. I hope she heard Keith’s message, too.

Set List: Comin’ Atcha Live ~ Edison’s Medicine ~ Gettin’ Better ~ Signs ~ Song & Emotion ~ I Wanna Live ~ Breakin’ Free ~ Hang Tough ~ Heaven’s Trail ~ Mama’s Fool ~ Love Song ~ What You Give ~ Into the Now

Encore: Modern Day Cowboy ~ Little Suzie


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