tesla-download-1-resize@ Newcastle o2 Academy, June 15 2009

There is one reason Tesla were chosen to play the main stage at Download this year – one of the least heralded blues metal bands of the late 80s has always delivered, despite a criminal lack of critical acclaim. And if their Castle Donington set was brilliant yet brief, this headline show allowed Jeff Keith and co. the opportunity to remind Newcastle just why they were once one of America’s hottest properties. And why they could be again.

Digging deep into the hook-laden treasure trove that is rushonrock‘s 2008 Album Of The Year, Forever More, Tesla are clearly confident their days as supreme songwriters aren’t over. The title track is a killer, while So What would be a global smash if Jon Bon Jovi was behind the mic. And in Breakin’ Free, Frank Hannon has conjured a riff which embeds itself in your consciousness so deep you just can’t shake it.

Of course Tesla can dip into a classy and comprehensive back catalogue at the click of Keith’s fingers and they did. Backed by one of the best sound set-ups the o2 Academy has enjoyed all year, tunes like Hang Tough, Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out) and Cumin Atcha Live lifted this gig from the memorable to the magnificent.

A heartfelt tribute to Def Leppard’s Steve Clark, in the shape of the stirring Song & Emotion, was worth the admission money alone – Hannon and Dave Rude barely put a finger wrong all night but this was their golden moment. How the much missed axe hero would have approved.

And then there was an encore seemingly made for the rushonrock legions – three days after we featured Edison’s Medicine‘s on The Vinyl Countdown it closed an incredible night of adrenaline-fuelled rock action. According to the band’s veteran sound man it was way better than Download – but then he didn’t really need to say as much. The Modern Day Cowboys ride on…