I relish the nights of seeing this unique band live and the excitement still hasn’t dissipated 23 years later …. and still counting. Our Aussie adopted Canadian sons, The Tea Party just continue to add more feathers to their already overdecorated cap with last night’s Enmore Theatre gig in Sydney. The first course was a celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the progressive and heavy ‘Transmission’ album, while the second course was a serving of more legendary Tea Party tracks. This was exactly the antidote we all needed to fend off the effects of the working week
It was a gathering of the faithful, the initiation of the new, a packed crowd waiting in anticipation for another night of unrivaled live spectacle. Most of us know what the story is here, as our taste for this live band version of a degustation menu has just become more ravenous as the years unfold. We know what’s coming, but we also know how. We will be blasted to pieces, yet again, by some of the best live music you will ever hear, by one of the best bands you will ever hear. This class A, Tea Party drug shows no signs of being downgraded.
Expecting the first album track and hearing the thunderous ‘Army Ants’ instead, I had to scramble to update my pre-show notes. The atmosphere moves into high gear in a split second as Jeff Martin begins his always overpowering, but subtle in many cases, vocal domination. Drawing you in, it’s going to be a mental journey with this album. Deep guitars, ferocious drums, multi-layering keyboards and electro overtones. ‘Transmission’ was such a departure at the time for this band that I remember having to go through a ‘few listens’ to really get what was going on and absorb every detail. The initial, first time listening session was confronting but far from negative; just so differently dark and beyond anything else I had ever heard, especially from the Tea Party, that the album needed time to unravel on its own terms and then envelop.
What an album, with amazing tracks like our next song ‘Babylon’ and its gorgeous musical conclusion tempering the immense energy from earlier in the song. Stunning. There are so many varied feelings within this album, we are then melting into ‘Psychopomp’ for more musical intoxication … “I’ll give you something more“. Yes you do! As always. Our beloved Canadian trio. We can never get enough, which is why we affectionately claim you as our symbolic ‘own’. I do love some ‘Gyroscope’, more paths winding us on and into this deliciously dangerous whirlpool. What I hear live transcends the recorded versions which we know are exceptional. The level of depth is incomparable. ‘Emerald’ is yet another stunning offering and then ‘Alarum’ which bends to being trippy and heavy at the same time. The blistering vocals. The crowd is always mesmerised. I have never seen anything other than perfection, which is a testament to the talent of this band.
As ‘Release’ haunts the venue, we all feel the pain of those lyrics but the fans go ballistic with a massive ovation. It’s pretty much like this throughout the whole night. ‘Transmission’ gives us some more middle eastern/rock/electro fusion and ‘Pulse’ live is always wicked… ‘The sooner you see, you can’t deny me’.. we won’t Jeff, we promise. You and Stuart and Jeff can always do whatever you wish, we will be there… the faithful know where their sanctuary is.
The slow and elegant ‘Aftermath’, which is dedicated to David Bowie, was an exquisite prelude to the cranking ‘Temptation’, which of course left the walls and floors shaking. Everyone is in their hard core zone here, screaming and pounding the ground, soaking it in. Knowing there’s more to come during our second course was just mouthwatering. Having a little intermission was perfect while we topped up our depleted energy levels and got ready for some old school and the never wearying ‘The River’. The fuzzy belly flips begin as that familiar guitar kicks in. The heads are all nodding as no words need to be spoken, it’s nod and smile and internal ‘yeaaahhh’.. That’s the Tea Party fan code. Nod and smile as it’s understood.
I wasn’t sure which songs would come in towards the end so I just treated every track like another dessert being offered up by the pastry chef gods. ‘The Bazaar’ is always a welcome punch to the senses. Pulling you out of any daydream, you are happy for this sweet hit. I love ‘The Ocean At The End’ live, it’s so entrancing and traumatising. The killer guitar and multi sounds, it has become a new favourite of mine in recent times and I look forward to hearing it on more set lists in the future. Jeff Martin is so in his element here. Eternally engaging. Then our version of ‘Heaven Coming Down’ was embedded with U2’s ‘With or Without You’ which was just brilliant but not much isn’t with the Tea Party. Hearing this sung with Jeff’s voice is a pleasure. We are spoiled with this band, and we know it, and we will take everything we can get. Bury us in your musical prowess.
Then of course they continue to do so with ‘Save Me’. Another classic, hypnotic and soothing number which moves into the encore and glorious instrumental ‘Winter Solstice’. We love reminiscing over early Tea Party songs. They feel like ‘home’ and keep us elated yet balanced all at the same time. For our finale, it was an epic version of the mythical ‘Sister Awake’ infused with ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Heroes’. Ahhh… what a way to send us off into the night. Another notch for us to add to our never satiated appetite for The Tea Party live.
Complex and provocative, this beautiful web continues to weave as we are indulged with the ‘Transmission’ album and then regaled with the many songs that spill out of this Tea Party treasure trove. There was a spoken hint of new music on the horizon that concluded yet another year of this musical love affair and we cannot wait to be drawn in and entrapped once again. Thanks once again Jeff M, Stuart and Jeff B. You are one of the most important international musical life bloods that have ever been injected into our country. We begrudgingly bid a temporary adieu to you, our Canadian maestros, until the next time…
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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