Heavy metal band Tesla has seen it all — fame, the ‘80s big rocker hair movement and of course, the dramatic breakups.
“In 1996, we were at the Hilton (now Grand Sierra) and we ended up playing a couple of songs,” Jeff Keith told the Sparks Tribune. “I lost my voice and started crying because I had lost a friend a few of days before. We ended up walking off stage and breaking up right there backstage.”
The hiatus lasted five years, but Keith laughs as he looks back on it now.
“We’re five brothers, doing what we love best,” Keith said. “Taking it all in and learning along the way.”
Along the way has taken them far, from their roots in Sacramento, Calif. in 1984 to eventually selling more than 17 million records and touring all over the world. And now, this Saturday, at the Grand Sierra Resort, Tesla is coming back for more.
“We’ve been on an incredible journey,” Keith said, before adding with a laugh, “and we’re very fortunate to still have our hair.”
Hair and all, Tesla wasn’t always Tesla. The original members, besides Keith, include guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta and the band name was City Kidd, a name that makes Keith cringe.
“We knew we couldn’t stick with City Kidd,” Keith said. “Our management came up with it (the name Tesla) one day and told us ‘We’re going to tell you everything about the mechanical resonance theory.’ ”
After learning about 19th century Serbian inventor and mechanical and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, the man behind the mechanically resonance theory, the band was sold.
“It’s a great name,” Keith said. “He’s a very important person in the development of everything and we never heard about him in school. We’re fulfilling him now.”
Fulfilling they are. Their first album, aptly named “Mechanical Resonance” in Nikola Tesla’s honor, was released in 1986, putting Tesla smack dab in the middle of the “glam rock” era.
And while Tesla prides itself in being different from the extravagant stage presences of the time, they did in fact tour with the likes of David Lee Roth, Def Leppard and Poison.
“We started out with a pretty good run,” Keith said, explaining the other bands used to give them a hard time, being a seemingly meager band from Northern California. “They used to call us the tomato farmers from Sac. We weren’t heavily influenced by a lot of bands from L.A. It’s always just been about the music, which did give us longevity.”
Tesla’s second album, “The Great Radio Controversy” (1989), cemented that place, as the still-memorable hit “Love Song” strengthened their fan base. Once “Five Man Acoustical Jam” came out in 1990 followed by “Psychotic Supper” in 1991, Tesla scored numerous hits including a rendition of the 1971 hit “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band.
“We took to it immediately,” Keith said about the group’s sudden fame. “We’ve got the best fans in the world and we’re really just playing music that we love from the heart.”
Several albums and international tours later, Tesla survived the tides of musical transformations and the loss of a key member, Skeoch, who left the band for personal reasons and was later replaced in 2006 by Dave Rude.
Keith attributes the success to their musical integrity. It may not be the 1980s anymore, he said, but the spirit is still there.
“We just stay true to writing songs from the heart,” Keith said. “We’ve accepted that it may not be the biggest thing going on today … but our place under the sun is here just doing what we do best — good honest rock and roll.”
That said, Keith reassured long-time fans that they can expect the same high energy, bluesy rock and roll Saturday night, with some classic hit songs mixed in with new stuff off the 2008 record “Forever More.”
“I look forward to seeing everyone out there,” Keith said. “It should be a good kick ass rock and roll show.”
The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door the day of the concert. Tickets can be purchased by either calling (800) 648-3568 or going online at www.ticketmaster.com.