(Okay, I actually started writing this up back in February, but since I’m so lazy, I never finished it. Well, better later than never!)
w/ Bad Marriage & Foundry
February 14, 2020
My fourth time going to the awesome Saenger Theatre in beautiful Downtown Pensacola did not disappoint! I immediately bought a ticket to this show as soon as they went on sale last year. Even more cool is that this was the first night of the tour.
I figured it would probably be a two or two-and-a-half hour show featuring Tesla only, but the day of the show I saw the Saenger’s website list Bad Marriage as the opening act. Didn’t have a clue who they were, but cool, more bang for my buck. Then once showtime came around, yet another band was on the bill… Foundry!
I wasn’t familiar with Foundry either. Featuring Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist plus tons of other bands), they were decent but somewhat generic sounding with their modern rock/metal radio sound. Mark sounded good, though.
Looks like the Las Vegas-based band originally was a three-piece featuring Baton Rouge vocalist Kelly Keeling. In addition to Boals, the current lineup features guitarist Chris Iorio (ex-Adelita’s Way) and drummer Marc Brattin (couldn’t find any info on who else he’s played with!). Bassist Scott Griffin (ex-L.A. Guns/ex-Ratt… the Bobby Blotzer version) performed with them, but all of the band’s social media pages say Bjorn Englen (Dio Disciples) is their bassist.
Looking at the resume of these guys, I’m guessing Chris Iorio is calling the shots on the musical direction of the band as Adelita’s Way was a pretty generic modern hard rock/heavy metal band itself, despite achieving some minor success in the late 2000s/early 2010s.
The band had a few technical and timing issues. Given that it was opening night and it seems like almost all of these guys are journeymen that are constantly busy with other band projects, there’s probably not a lot of time for Foundry to gel together. I don’t mind. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show, it’s not supposed to be perfectly polished and shiny!
Next up was Bad Marriage, a group based out of the Boston area. I skimmed over their bio online earlier in the day and the description touted them as students of ’70s and ’80s classic hard rock (inspired by AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses & Aerosmith) that often threw in a number of cover songs from that era into energetic their set. That sounds about right. Some people in the row behind me knew of them already, had seen them previously and were excited to see them again.
I thought the visual of the band was a bit strange. Vocalist Jon Paquin looked like he stepped out of the 1970s with his tan slacks, dress shoes (or boots?), button up big collared shirt, scarves and a white fringe jacket (he would later don a sailor’s cap as well, completing the yacht rock look). Granted, he looked cool, but the drummer was smartly dressed in a sensible black dress shirt (in music videos I’ve seen him wearing a tie and a blazer!) while the other three members of the band were dressed like sleaze rockers. Maybe that’s why they call themselves Bad Marriage… because they don’t look like they belong together!
The performance itself was good and energetic. By the time Bad Marriage took the stage, the theater was just about full and everyone seemed to love them. The crowd especially went nuts when they performed their version of Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic”. They also did a cover of Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee”. Paquin comes across like a star and is very charismatic with his mannerisms and dancing onstage. Their original music is decent and is much more in line with what I like to listen to.
Next up were the headliners… Tesla!
And they absolutely nailed it. Vocalist Jeff Keith has always had a unique style of singing, and not one that would be kind to your voice as you get older, and it shows slightly. Keith has a little wear & tear going on, but I think he still sounded pretty good. Guitarist Frank Hannon was a monster all throughout the show. Absolute master.
I initially didn’t recognize the opener “Tied to the Tracks”. I figured it was an obscure rocker from their catalog, but it’s actually from their latest album — Shock. Great way to open the show, I think. It does not sound out of place at all with the rest of the band’s material. That’s one thing about Tesla through the years— they always sound like Tesla. One other song from Shock made the cut: “Taste Like”, which is excellent as well.
Seeing as how the band had a new live acoustic album to promote, Five Man London Jam (Live at Abbey Road), for some reason I was expecting the show to be an acoustic one. It seems like promo materials I saw really focused on them and their history with playing acoustically, but I’m glad that this was a traditional rock ‘n’ roll show.
And what a great set list! Five tracks from The Great Radio Controversy (my favorite Tesla album) alone made my night. They could play that album in full and I’d be satisfied, but I absolutely loved that they played “Miles Away” from Into the Now (my second favorite Tesla album, and I wouldn’t have been upset to hear even more). I’m glad they played a couple of new tracks, and the rest of the set was good as well.
- Tied to the Tracks
- Modern Day Cowboy
- Lazy Days, Crazy Nights
- Hang Tough
- Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
- Taste Like
- Miles Away
- Song & Emotion
- Call It What You Want
- What You Give
- Edison’s Medicine (Man Out of Time)
- Be a Man
- Love Song
- Little Suzi
Luckily, I got to see this show just before all of the COVID-19 chaos started to ramp up. If this show was scheduled two or three weeks later, it probably would have been canceled. But as it stand, it was a great show, and possibly the only concert I’ll get to see in 2020 (but I hope not). 30+ years later, Tesla is well worth the time and money to seek out as a live act!
An unexpected bonus for having bought a ticket was that I was sent a free CD copy of Five Man London Jam. It’s been sitting at my computer desk for a few months now, unopened… Maybe I’ll give it a spin and review sometime soon!
Thanks for reading.