29 June 2019 at The Valley Drive In
The Tea Party & their Black River tour. What can I say?
These Canadian Legends have still got it & will never lose it. I have loved The Tea Party since their inception in 1990 & release of Splendor Soils in 1993. So this has been a long term love affair. Like most 20 somethings in the 90’s I had a crush on Jeff Martin, the lead singer with a voice like velvet & guitarist of the Windsor born 3 piece. Coming at a time when grunge was at its peak, The Tea Party were different. With their Middle Eastern x Heavy Rock vibe the magic that they weave is tangible. With Mr Martins co members from the beginning, Stuart Chatwood on bass/keyboards & Jeff Burrows on drums – the trine is complete.
This winter evening in the heart of the Valley the magic began with the hit The River from Splendor Soils, my flashback began. Then forward to 1995 straight into The Bazaar, setting the crowd into a frenzy.
Mr Martin then greets his fans & reflects that next year will be their 30 year anniversary & asked if anyone was there at the beginning? Silly question. Their loyal fan base & especially Australia has made it that Jeff Martin is now living here & has done for many years. I met him once in Melbourne & he is a character. Showcasing that charisma he proceeded into the 1997 hit from Transmission – Psychopomp, with Stuart playing the haunting keys. Flowing along effortlessly & cohesively the brotherhood is tangible between the members. Flowing through another hit from Transmission –Release then we have another guitar change from Mr Martins double necked 6 & 12 string Epiphone back to his Gibson Les Paul. Not only is it a feast for the eyes but a feast for the guitar nerd in me. Speaking of guitar nerds, next song was the 1991 classic Save Me where Jeff takes a violin bow to his guitar – Jimmy Page-esque. All the while getting the crowd to sing along & with a big Cheshire Cat grin, as nothing is more rewarding than a crowd singing the lyrics you created. As has become a tradition he cuts into a version of The Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley & then seamlessly back into the solo of Save Me. Heaven Coming Down was the next hit to get the crowd in which again we break into a medley incorporating U2’s With or Without You into the song.
The title of the new album released in 2018 Black River is proof these gentlemen are talented & ongoing, creative & inspiring. The last song of the set was introduced with a little of Jeff’s dry humour with their hit from Transmission Temptation. We all knew they would be back for an encore but the crowd made sure that refusing this was not an option. Stuart playing harmonium & Jeff switching from acoustic guitar to bongos we were gifted with Sister Awake to complete the ritual. Incorporating The Stones Paint It Black & Bowies Heroes – if you cannot sense their influences in their music they give credit with these medleys.
Yet again The Tea Party is a party that I will never tire or release from my heart. If you have never heard of them as they are still quite “underground” please – listen.
Line-up: The Tea Party, The Black Armada
Reviewer: Tina Summers
Photocredits: CTS Photography