Category Archives: Tesla

Bone Bash XVI: Def Leppard/Styx/Tesla @ Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View CA 09/19/15

Bone Bash is the annual super gig put on by KSAN 107.7 The Bone. I had always wanted to see Tesla and Def Leppard perform, more so Def Lep. To me they were one of the few groups that successfully married pop and metal, even though calling them pop could be an insult to most fans. The first opener was the mighty Tesla and they didn’t disappoint. I’ve been wanting to see these guys for a while now, I kick myself for missing a local gig a couple years ago. Tesla is unique because they emerged during the mid 80s hair metal/glam era and remained down to Earth the whole time: authentic rock n’ roll – no frills, no bullshit, blue collar rock. While the Sunset Strip acts were sporting spandex, make-up, lace and leather, Tesla retained an almost hippie throwback kind of look and philosophy. Jeans, t-shirts, solid playing ability (and good hair) were all they needed. Tesla plays aggressive, bluesy jams on guitar, bass and drums with the occasional folk inspired acoustic gems (think of the acoustic material on Led Zeppelin III), and they’re from California too 🙂 Props to Tesla for having 4 of the original 5 members still in their line-up. They’ve been performing for 28 years and could probably do a gig in their sleep. The band was tight, professional and I expected nothing less. The set was too short but it was a great introduction for a newbie like me. Tesla is still releasing new music and they’re isn’t a bad album in their discography. Jeff was very appreciative at the turn out, the amphitheater was filling to capacity as the band tore into their opening set. Jeff Keith is something else, he’s a mover onstage, dancing and slinking around the stage like some flower child from Woodstock. He’s received some flak recently for his vocal delivery, his tone in particular. He still has that bluesy rasp suited for rock music and it didn’t sound bad at all, maybe a bit tighter sounding (higher in pitch), but it’s still him, and not bad for being a guy in his 50s. The band was very good, with Frank Hannon and Dave Rude doing some very cool counter melodies on their guitars. Troy Lucketta and Brian Wheat laid down a solid groove and kept the Shoreline thumping. It would be so cool to see these guys in a small theater or even a decent sized club. Great all around rock group.

  1. Edison’s Medicine
  2. Hang Tough
  3. Heaven’s Trail
  4. Signs
  5. Little Suzi
  6. Love Song
  7. Modern Day Cowboy

Next came STYX. Holy sh*t…I will never, EVER, mock this group again. They stole the show, hands down. They turned Bone Bash into a Styx gig. EVERYBODY knew those songs, sang their drunken hearts out, and applauded these performers as if they were heroes. I was there to see Def Leppard and Tesla, but damn, Styx slayed the crowd and won my respect over and over. They performed as if they were in their 30s, not a sign of aging. The vocals were on par with the studio versions, and the performances were mind-blowing. I had no idea their songs were so intricate, complicated, epic and entertaining. I remember hearing Styx songs on FM radio in the car as a kid, riding around with dad, listening to the local classic rock station. That was my only connection with this group. I also remember passing them off as a lamer, wimpier, more pretentious version of Yes (if that’s even possible). But seeing them live totally shattered that unfair stereotype. Original bassist Chuck Ponazzo was on hand for this gig, as were classic line up members James Young and Tommy Shaw. Ex Babys/Bad English bassist Ricky Phillips was onstage and has played with this lineup for a number of years, as well as power-house drummer Todd Sucherman. Sucherman played amazingly, regularly pulling off intricate, complex patterns on the toms and cymbals, and while playing traditional grip. Their overall mix was crystal clear, better quality sound than Tesla, and Styx didn’t have to hide behind any distortion unlike some other hard rock groups. Their playing was so precise and clean, especially Sucherman on drums. He was pulling off very fast passages with double strokes, cascading up and down the toms, crashes and splashes, sometimes while cross-armed. Hell of a drummer. And the even bigger surprise was Lawrence Gowan on keys and vocals. That man sounds eerily like Dennis DeYoung, almost indistinguishable, and he was a great performer onstage, full of energy and enthusiasm. His voice was so compelling, no wonder the entire crowd sang along and hung on to every word. And shockingly enough, it made me sentimental and made me think of when I was a kid, listening to the radio with my dad in his ’70 Chevy Monte Carlo. Damned Styx. Connecting with me like that.  I’d love to see these guys again with a full set and their own production.

  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. Too Much Time On My Hands
  3. Fooling Yourself
  4. Miss America
  5. Lady
  6. Blue Collar Man
  7. Rocket Man/Bohemian Rhapsody/Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay
  8. Come Sail Away
  9. Rockin’ The Paradise
  10. Renegade

Def Leppard was the closer for this gig. I was so excited to finally see Def Leppard, one of the few 80s metal acts that I still gave a damn about. I was a big fan of the Hysteria/Adrenalize/Retroactive era. As a kid, I loved that Marshall sound on guitar and Joe Elliot’s voice. And the poppy and anthemic choruses made them all the more fun to listen to. In the early 90s I was mostly listening to Metallica, Van Halen, Queensryche and Guns n’ Roses. But I still had a soft spot for Def Leppard as well. The group put on a very good show, but unlike their counterparts in Tesla and Styx, it was most evident that age was catching up with Def Leppard. Don’t get me wrong, the guys in the group are healthy and still look good, although Phil Collin doesn’t count, that bastard, but you could hear it in Joe Elliot’s voice and some of the guitar parts strayed quite a bit from the studio originals, not necessarily a bad thing, but different. Joe still has much of his vocal range, however there was a thinner quality to his singing. That’s the picky gripe that I have about the singing. But Joe’s vocals were still very strong. What was sorely missing were stronger background vocals. Kudos to the guys for pulling off the backing vocals live, a fact they’ve always championed, but what adds to the magic and mystique of the Def Leppard sound are the high pitched backgrounds (I know that’s Joe’s voice multi-tracked 20 or 30 times, but still). It was great to see Vivian Campbell performing, the group initially announced that he wouldn’t be well enough to join this tour, but he’s undergoing cancer treatments while on the road and looking well, all things considering. He was smiling and having a good time. The big wow moment for me was witnessing Rick Allen on drums and seeing the up-close camera shots of his footwork. I had no idea the man played so many pedal triggers, I always figured he had the kick drum pedal and a trigger for his snare. But no, there had to be at least 6 or 7 pedals in succession, all triggering various sounds, including two kicks. And it was something else seeing his feet speed up during his solo piece at the end of Switch 626. Joe had a nice solo spot with “Two Steps Behind.” However I think the electric version crushes the acoustic version like a grape. LOVE the electric version. The only other gripe about the show was the sound of Allen’s triggered snare, it was thin sounding and lacked punch. The other big part of Def Lep’s sound is that infectious back-beat and the classic Leppard triggered snare sound, and it was missing in this night’s mix. And the tempo to “Let’s Get Rocked” was too damn fast. Still an awesome concert, crazy good triple bill. Styx definitely out played and out entertained the headliner though.

  1. Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Foolin’
  5. Promises
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Two Steps Behind
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar on Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph

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