Three decades ago Sacramento, Calif.-based hard rock band Tesla released Mechanical Resonance as its debut.
Six months ago the band released the platinum seller again on its own label as a live album.
“Like they said in the Sgt. Pepper song, ‘it was 30 years ago today,’” said Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon last week. “We’re celebrating the 30th anniversary and the idea was given to us by Phil Collen from Def Leppard.
“Thirty years ago we toured with Def Leppard and those guys have been like big brothers to us. Phil Collen has been like a big brother, like a coach.”
The majority of the live recording was accomplished in Salt Lake City, but Hannon said there were some of the 12 tracks taken from other performances.
As much as any of Tesla albums, songs from the Mechanical album have lone been prominently featured in Tesla’s set list on the road.
“That album was groundbreaking for us,” said Hannon. “There’s staples on it that we play every night like ‘Modern Day Cowboy,’ and ‘Little Suzi.”
Four tracks were in the set list at Center Stage in the Choctaw Casino in Pocola, Okla., Friday, including an acoustic version of Comin’ At You Live, in the vein of the Five Man Acoustical Jam album.
Audiences play into the energy of the live show too, further fueling the Mechanical Live tour, Hannon said.
“I’ve noticed on this tour especially people are really attached to our songs. The tell us it’s been a soundtrack to their lives. It’s a loyalty man,” said Hannon.
Other than the obvious that it is live, the track order and lineup have been adjusted.
For the 12-track live order that means kicking it off with “Rock Me To The Top,” through “Changes”and “2 Late 4 Love,” on the way to wrapping up with “Little Suzi” and “Modern Day Cowboy.”
There is, however, an additional 13th track on the re-release, “Save That Goodness,” which was written and produced by Collen. The track was also featured in Friday’s 100-plus minute set list.
“He wrote the song with us in mind. He came to us and said I’ve got this song that sounds a lot like Tesla,” said Hannon. “It’s always been good for us to listen to people and get some ides. In the beginning Ronnie Montrose helped us. He presented us with Little Suzi’s on the up.
“You’ve got your good artists and you’ve got your great artists. The great ones will always work with other people. Even Johnny Cash was listening to Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.”
Collen also makes multiple appearances in a video for the tune.
While some groups from the 80s and 90s still out touring are mere shells of their former selves, Tesla has had only one lineup change since forming in the California capital. Dave Rude joined the band, replacing Tommy Skeoch.
“We kept that originality and the chemistry of that. If we could have kept it all original we would have, but there were a lot of problems,” said Hannon. “We’re really happy with Dave Rude.
“Dave Rude has helped us keep it all together. He’s got a great positive energy. He’s a phenomenal guitar player. He’s got the same soul that we all do.”
Tesla has always done well in the Fort Smith area. Friday’s show at the Choctaw Casino sold out well in advance, as did one at the casino in January of 2015.
Actually, one of Tesla’s first headlining gigs came in Fort Smith’s Harper Stadium. Originally planned as the opener for Great White, Tesla became the featured act when Jack Russell was apparently unable to perform due to laryngitis.
“I remember that night,” Hannon said last week as the group prepared for a show in Detroit, Mich. “That was freaking awesome.”
Unheard of the first time Mechanical was released, Tesla’s social media presence today features everything from the state of the art website listing every concert over the last 30-plus years to Facebook live concert look-ins.
“We’ve got a great friend out on the road with us right now. He is the son of Ross Haflin, the legendary photographer. Oliver has been taking a lot of great photos and videos,” said Hannon.
In addition to Tesla, Hannon is also involved in his own group, the Frank Hannon project, but it is clearly a back seat right now.
“It’s time management. I’ve had to learn to not try to juggle things and do too much,” said Hannon. “I was actually offered to do a show in Tulsa but I had turn it down.
“Someone told me a long time ago if you’ve more things to do than you’ve got too many things to do (and) Tesla is just on a roll right now.”
When not on the road — the group will take a break after a March 4 show until April 8 — Hannon’s life imitates the music.
“My wife and I, we’re really involved in cutting horses and we do a lot of cowboy stuff. We ride horses in some shows and get our mind off music and do a lot of modern day cowboy stuff.”