Replugged Live


Sanctuary Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Replugged Live is the album that documents what most fans of Tesla thought they'd never get the chance to see. Once word came down a few years ago that Tesla had thrown in the towel (for whatever reasons were rumored - and there were a few), it seemed like there was too much bad blood between the five guys in the band to ever get them back together. Ah, but times change, and the public's cry for Tesla to come back together were finally heeded - but would the magic still be there?

This two-disc set taken from various concerts during Tesla's 2001 tour (including a selection of dates from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, one of the few cities singer Jeff Keith salutes from the stage) shows a band who still have their chops musically, and still know how to put on one helluva show. It also occasionally shows the weakness that could undermine the band, though those moments can differ, depending on which period of Tesla's career one thought was weak.

If you're keeping score at home, Replugged Live touches on all of the band's releases, including "What U Give," which was only on the best-of Time's Makin' Changes. What's interesting is not that the group's weakest effort Bust A Nut only has one track culled from it, but that the song, "Mama's Fool," is one of the surprising points of the whole disc in its strength and the band's performance. It's almost as if Keith and crew went out of their way to show the audience what they missed with this particular album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Replugged Live breathes new life into several songs in this fashion. When Psychotic Supper was released, I really didn't appreciate the track "Song & Emotion" as a real tribute to Steve Clark from Def Leppard - but after years of wisdom (as well as watching the "Behind The Music" episode of Def Leppard more times than I'd like to admit), the true beauty of this song comes forth, and "Song & Emotion" is allowed to stand on its own. If only some other tracks, like "Edison's Medicine" and "The Way It Is," had been granted the same magical touch.

Replugged Live pulls many tracks off of Tesla's two big albums, Mechanical Resonance and The Great Radio Controversy, but it's what the kids want, so give it to 'em. Besides, most of these turn out to be the best moments of the whole show, especially the numbers from Mechanical Resonance. (I do wonder, though, why Tesla chose to resurrect "We're No Good Together" and why not, say, "Rock Me To The Top".) Admittedly, some personal preference will come into play for the listener - I still haven't totally warmed up to songs like "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" or "Hang Tough" - but there's going to be more than enough material on this disc to leave you smiling. (And, yes, Virginia, drummer Troy Lucketta actually did play a solo during the concert's opening number "Cumin' Atcha Live". Why, I don't know.)

What's interesting about this album is that while you'll find tracks you don't particularly like, you can't imagine Replugged Live being as complete an effort without them. I don't know how Tesla pulled that off, but a number of bands would like to know that secret.

Where Replugged Live hits snags is in two areas. First, some of the shows seem to feature the band when Keith's voice sounded more ragged than it usually does. On songs like "EZ Come EZ Go" and "Hang Tough," sometimes it seems as if Keith is having difficulty making it to the high notes a la Steven Tyler. Admittedly, I didn't expect note-for-note precision - the guys in the band are 15 years older than the group which recorded Mechanical Resonance - but one has to imagine there was at least one other show which had Keith sounding in better voice.

The second is, ironically, the hardest to explain. While Replugged Live has the feel of the most complete Tesla show one could imagine, it's not the most engaging listen. Production-wise, it's fine; performance-wise, it's fine. But energy-wise, it's too easy for the listener to push the disc to the background and let their memory go onto auto-pilot. So while this is a disc that fans have been begging for, it's also one which listeners might only dig out from time to time.

Don't get me wrong; Replugged Live is a welcome disc from a band who never got the credit they deserved, and is a nice stepping stone into the group's new future. But it's also a disc which needed a little more heart to keep the listener's fists pumping in the air.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.