A GREAT NIGHT OF MUSIC WITH AN EARLY SURPRISE ENCOUNTER
Date: July 28, 2017
Venue: Verizon Wireless Center
Location: Mankato, Minnesota, USA
Reviewer: Kevin Houdek
I was 19 years old back in 1986 when Tesla’s debut album Mechanical Resonance hit music stores. I was attending a trade school for radio broadcasting at the time in Minneapolis, Minnesota and remember hearing the band for the first time on Minneapolis/St. Paul radio. There was a Musicland store just a few blocks from the apartment building I lived in so I ended up there to purchase the cassette tape of the new band. Now 30 years later, I am almost at age 50 and Tesla remains one of my all time favorite bands. So when Tesla announced their live version of Mechanical Resonance was coming out, it was at the top of my list to purchase last year. Just the pure rock and roll sound and energy has kept me coming back to the band all these years. I never did get a chance to see them in their heyday in the ’80s or ’90s. I saw them live for the first time in 2012 at a local summer 80’s themed music festival called Halfway Jam just outside of the small town of Royalton in Central Minnesota and again in 2014.
When I saw that they were continuing on the road this summer as a headliner after teaming up earlier this year with Def Leppard and Poison, I made sure to see if they would be coming back to Minnesota and found out that sure enough they would be making an appearance at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, which is the home to the Minnesota State University – Mankato Maverick’s men’s hockey team. This performance would be at the Verizon Center Grand Hall, which is a smaller concert venue attached to the Verizon Wireless Center that seats a few thousand people and was just opened up in 2016. I was able to pick up a pre-sale code for the concert and wound up getting front row tickets on the left side of the stage for $37. The concert turned into a date night for my wife and me as we drove the three hours to Mankato. Back in 2013, Rat Pack Records made Tesla guitarist Dave Rude’s solo band album The Key available for purchase so I bought the CD bundle which contained a “Dave Rude for President” t-shirt, phone call from Dave, and a bunch of other swag. I wore that t-shirt to the Tesla concert I attended in 2014 and ended up getting a picture with Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon as he worked the crowd and the Tesla merch area signing autographs. I decided I would again wear my Dave Rude t-shirt to this concert.
On Friday afternoon, my wife and I arrived in Mankato around 4:30 pm with doors opening for the concert at 6:30 pm and the show starting at 7:30 that night. We had some dinner and then drove into downtown Mankato and found a place to park and then had a couple drinks before we walked to the concert arena. In our two block walk to the arena, we ended up behind the Mankato mall, which now has an area called Entertainment Alley which has a few bars and restaurants that all feature outdoor seating that stretches into the plaza area on one side of the mall. While we were trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the mall and plaza area where the concert arena, is I heard someone say to me “Hey, nice shirt”. That person being none other than the person on the shirt, Tesla guitarist Dave Rude. We had a great conversation with Dave. Dave’s guest for the show was his mom and it was pretty cool to find out that she was born in central Minnesota. We took a few pictures and then headed to the arena for the show. After the run in with Dave, I was completely fired up for the concert.
Voices of Extreme / Ron Keel Band:
Once inside the arena, we could see that the stage was set up for a band called Voices of Extreme. This is a band that I have never heard of but found out they were from New York and were doing a few dates with Tesla. This meant there would be three bands on the stage tonight as I had only found out on July 13th that the Ron Keel Band would also be performing this night thanks to the article that ran on Sleaze Roxx about Ron Keel’s new single “Homesick.” The venue never did advertise the fact that there would be more that just Tesla taking the stage. So Voices of Extreme took the stage at 7:30 and played for about a half hour. They finished their set with a cover of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
After a quick stage change, the Ron Keel Band took the stage opening up with their 1985 song and stadium anthem “The Right to Rock.” They also added the “Homesick” song and “What Would Skynrd Do.” Ron Keel then set the crowd up for their “American” medley and had the crowd really getting into their covers of Don McLean’s “American Pie”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” Just a couple songs later and their set was finished. I was surprised as well that they only played for about a half hour.
Ron Keel Band performing at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minnesota, USA on July 28, 2017:
Verizon Wireless Events Center, Mankato, MN July 28th 2017 Opening for Tesla.
Time for the main event so we took our spot up front next to the barrier at the left side of the stage. Tesla opened up the show with the song “MP3” from the 2014 album Simplicity. They then cruised into “Into the Now” followed by “The Way it is”, “Hang Tough” and “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out).” The stage hands then brought out the stools and acoustic guitars and even wheeled out a smaller drum kit for drummer Troy Luccketta as lead singer Jeff Keith announced they were going into their Five Man Acoustical Jam mode. The acoustic portion of the set started out with the “Cumin’ Atcha Live/Truckin’” medley. Base player Brian Wheat then moved over to keyboards for “Paradise” and the band finished the acoustic set with their cover of “Signs”.
Tesla performing “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minnesota, USA on July 28, 2017:
Guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude brought back out their electric guitars as the band jumped into “What You Give” and brought the crowd right back up again with “Edison’s Medicine (Man out of Time).” The acoustic guitars were brought back out on stage which meant the intro for “Love Song.” Since seeing Tesla perform, I’ve always thought that “Love Song” is one of the highlights of their show. I’ve always said that the band really rocks on a song that is a ballad and everyone in the crowd knows the words to the song and is always singing along. After “Love Song”, the band finished up their 90 minute set with two of my all time favorites — the songs that really got me into the band when Mechanical Resonance came out in ’86 — “Little Suzi” and “Modern Day Cowboy.”
So a great night of music was over. What a great night it was. I was only slightly disappointed that Tesla didn’t play their newest single “Save That Goodness” from last year’s Mechanical Resonance Live. I really wanted to hear and see the band sing this song, but for this performance it was not included in the setlist. The band still put on a great show. Jeff Keith sounded really good and the double guitar attack of Frank Hannon and Dave Rude is always spectacular.
Thanks to the city of Mankato for bringing in one of my favorites and thanks to Dave Rude and his mom for noticing my shirt on the plaza making this great evening extra special.
A quick check at www.teslatheband.com shows the band’s 30 years headlining tour continues into early October with some international dates later in the year as well. Check them out when they come to your town.
Tesla performing “Love Song” at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minnesota, USA on July 28, 2017: