Live Review: A Hard Rock Night with Tesla and Drowning Pool

Published on August 12th, 2010

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August 7, 2010 – There really wouldn’t seem to be much crossover among the fans of ’80s hard rockers Tesla and alternative metal styled Drowning Pool. And perhaps in normal circumstances, there isn’t. But when both bands shared the bill on Saturday night at the Legendary Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, the fans gathered were ready for any kind of rock to be thrown at them.

Drowning Pool lived up to its reputation as one of the more aggressive modern metal acts with a set that contained enough head-banging and gritty vocals to please even the most hardcore enthusiast. Later in the evening, there was an air of confidence in the members of Tesla as they strutted around on stage with their electrifying sound. Between the two bands, (and even an interesting weather delay), it’s safe to say that rock fans young and old got what they were looking for.

There’s no doubt singer Ryan McCombs is the central focus of Drowning Pool. A spotlight tracked his constant and rapid movements across the stage, while he sang with both hands firmly grasping a silver microphone. Although not the original singer for the group, his voice is perfectly suited for their brash metal. The rest of the band is also talented and appeared to be having plenty of fun, even if they didn’t share the spotlight quite as often.

Having to follow an active, younger group may have fueled Tesla to give an even more energetic show than usual. The five-piece broke out with two new songs from 2008′s Forever More, but delved into the classics before too long. They may have surpassed 25 years as a touring entity, but everyone from singer Jeff Keith to newcomer guitarist Dave Rude appeared as eager to be playing as ever.

But it wasn’t long into the band’s set that one of its mottos – “Hang Tough” – would be put to the test. In fact it was during that very song that sudden winds due to a nearby thunderstorm began to blow their long hair straight back and sway the lighting rigs above them. The band remained on stage for some time before deciding to take a brief respite for safe measure. But not to fear, Tesla came back (although understandably startled) before too long and were grateful for being able to continue their show the right way.

“It looks like God’s going to calm down and let us rock some more,” quipped guitarist Frank Hannon, who made a wise choice in removing his signature top hat before the wind could take it away.

Those who have attended multiple Tesla concerts in recent years can testify to the band’s unchanged abilities in laying down each song with studio quality. The fact that their singer has a signature rasp that is immediately identifiable, and the feat of maintaining 4 out of 5 original members surely helps in that department.

But it’s also refreshing to hear more than a simple “greatest hits” set from a band that’s willing not only to write new material, but to let the songs be heard live.

All said and done, Drowning Pool engaged with a fast-paced set of metal, and Tesla was more than able to weather a storm to keep the action going in the spirit of rock and roll. Add in a crowd that sticks through it all, and that’s a successful show.

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