[LIVE REVIEW] The Tea Party @ Star Event Center, Sydney 21/04/2017

Review Roger Brooks

Well here we are at the beginning of another eagerly anticipated tour from the enigmatic The Tea Party, however this time it shall include an orchestral ensemble which tonight was to be the Sydney Youth Orchestra.

The band first performed with a symphony way back in 2002, however, this is the first time that they have taken the concept away from their homeland of Canada. For some time Australia has been considered to be a second home for the band, a home that has adopted them to a degree and has enjoyed several tours with rave reviews covering so many majestical performances… well, tonight was to be no different.

I had personally not seen The Tea Party for some time, and therefore I wandered into the venue sensing some trepidation, foolishly. You know that feeling you get when you attend a huge live act, a band that you have loved for so many years, and for various reasons (one being the years that have rolled by) you walk in wondering if they still have it, when, if it all, will they just cease to sound amazing, when will the music begin to slowly lose that edge, that depth, that magic… well, for The Tea Party it sure as hell ain’t now!

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Tonight kicked off with a short acoustic piece played by Jeff Martin, no distortion, no vocals, just a musical introduction to announce that they were here, right here in front of us, and you better be ready.

If you were looking for an upbeat, raunchy guitar riff laden song to get you in the mood to rock then you got it to begin with in the form of the magnificent ‘Temptation,’ and you could instantly feel the room move, and I mean really move. The energy in that room was palpable, the kind of energy that makes you feel alive, that makes you shake your fist positively towards the gods of rock and feel as one with all that are around you.

The charisma that is ‘The Tea Party’ was instantly evident. The guitar riffs, the rhythmic drum beat, and the soothing, smooth keyboard sounds are a timeless existence for this three piece band, however tonight the magnificent Sydney Youth Orchestra playing behind them transformed the already beautiful blend into a much deeper sound, a sound that suddenly had the ability to delve even further into your soul, this was a very special event people!

For me personally, and seemingly a large portion of the people toward the front of the crowd, my favorite track from the band has always been ‘Psychopomp’ and that was next up, and boy did that one go off!

Man, those soaring keyboard notes, especially in the chorus are just monumental and live, well let’s just say that I surely could not have been the only person in the venue with goosebumps!

The trepidation thing I mentioned earlier, yeah, that included wondering what Jeff Martin’s voice was going to sound like, I mean sure he was going to be able to play some really cool guitar licks, however what if his voice had lost its edge, what if that was the one thing that had slightly begun to fall away for the band… ah, not a freaking chance!

Jeff Martin, certainly last night, has lost none of his vocal ability, nor any of his trademark charisma and charms, which as always endeared him to the large crowd. Within just two songs Jeff was already breaking the sets down with dialogue and interaction with the crowd, and I don’t mean the standard “so how ‘ya all dointonight?” I mean real dialogue, engaging, and thoughtful dialogue which included playful funny banter too, a real delight.

Early on during the first of two sets on the night, Jeff Martin told the crowd of the sad passing of his best mate, a mate who had succumbed to cancer that very morning after a very short battle, and at a very young age. As myself and the rest of the crowd momentarily fell into a particularly somber mood Jeff announced that he did not intend, nor wish for this night to be a somber one, but a celebration of his young friend’s life, and so on he and the band, and orchestra continued.

Man, this place was by now totally electrified!

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I don’t know about you, however this band, particularly live have the ability to transport you, to allow moments in your day or life where you become transfixed by a riff or melody of theirs and you just lose yourself, you then come out of it and wonder where you went, because you cannot remember what you were actually doing… that is a gift my friends, and ‘The Tea Party’ have it in spades!

And on we went, with constant guitar changes and beautifully saturated colored backdrops and side screens, every song seemingly becoming deeper and deeper, and all with beautifully timed with interludes of banter and captivating dialogue, to which the crowd responded too often.

The band was joined on stage twice by Canadian operatic vocalist Christine Williams, and boy didn’t that work seamlessly with the arrangement. The soaring and effortless multi-octave vocal talent of Christine soaring through the riffs and orchestral pieces, particularly during ‘Walking Wounded’… wow!

After the breathtaking performance by Christine Williams, it was time for a short intermission, mainly for the orchestra to retune… and time for the crowd to take stock of what they have just witnessed during the first set of tonight’s performance.

You know what, I could sense the buzz in the venue as people made their way out for a quick drink during the intermission, you could honestly feel the excitement for what they had seen, and anticipation for what was to come.

Time for the second set, and boom, straight into ‘Transmission’ and once again, with immediate effect, the crowd was jumping.

Somehow, despite the classics that were played during the first set, and the pure rock majesty the second set seemed to take on a heavier and deeper presence. Maybe it was the crowd too, and maybe an extra drink or two thrown in because the crowd turned into more of a rock crowd by standing more often and dancing in the aisles. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd was noisy and into it during the first set, however now they were really letting their hair down and throwing caution to the wind.

People spilled out into the aisles to dance and rock out, there were also several that decided to transform the area in front of the stage into a makeshift dance floor, and the band did not seem to mind that all, I mean why would they?

Again, as with the first set, Jeff Martin stopped between songs to engage with the crowd, and they felt it, really felt it, the band really does make the room come together as one for the performance.

The second set included tracks such as ‘Release,’ ‘Requiem’ and ‘Mantra’ however the biggest cheers and general responses (apart from the encore) came when the band played ‘Heaven’ and ‘Save Me’… the former had most in the crowd cheering, waving and dancing, clearly a favorite for most.

The encore arrived after approximately two hours and included both ‘Winter Solstice’ and ‘Sister Awake’ with an upsurge in intensity, if that was possible and an unmatched level of sheer desire to from the crowd to absorb all that the band had to offer, and the band played up to that, especially Jeff Martin, a real showman.

And so the performance came to an end, just over two hours of pure rock indulgence, littered with a magnificent blend of guitar riffs, smooth and soaring keyboards, rhythmic drum beats, operatic vocals and beautiful orchestral arrangements, plus the timeless charisma of the enigmatic Jeff Martin fronting the band.

This band is real, and they have not lost any of the charm and pure rock genius that they have displayed during their long and distinguished career, and now they have thankfully and graciously brought their stunning orchestral shows to Australia for the first time.

Thank you ‘The Tea Party’ for quashing my initial trepidation with stunning force and magnitude, I, nor the crowd will forget this magnificent performance.