The Tea Party hold a special place in the hearts of Melbourne music fans after breaking into the local live scene in the early ‘90s as unknown three-piece. Word spread fast and it soon seemed everyone had a copy of the trio’s second album Splendor Solis in their CD player.
While most other three-piece bands were trying to get their teen spirit on, The Tea Party blew everyone away who saw their live sets. While grunge reigned, The Tea Party served up a mix of blues and rock with middle-eastern influences that captivated audiences.
As the Canadian trio grew out of bar gigs to bigger venues, stages were increasingly full of various stringed instruments from around the world that only emphasised their talent.
Having not seen them live for two decades I was unsure of what to expect, but the intimate stage at 170 Russell had little room for an excess of instruments and set the scene for an up close and personal rock show.
So, when the band approaching its 30th anniversary walked out on stage and opened with The River the scene was set for a trip down memory lane.
And the audience full of ‘90s children lapped it up.
“Do you all remember the ‘90s?” frontman Jeff Martin asked. “I don’t.” Many heads nodded in agreement. It was a solid decade and live music was huge in Melbourne.
There are many revered Tea Party songs off some classic albums, but this was a night that would journey through their own hits and others.
When mid-song Martin broke out with Tool’s Sober – “Why can we not be sober” – it set a path for some fantastic sidesteps throughout the night, and Martin stepping back to soak up the audience singing along.
Unfortunately, an early sound issue saw the band stop to fix it and punters rush the bar, but after a few minutes, the show was back on and flawless.
Martin was chatty, humble and, while still the rock star, he’s clearly enjoying middle age and parked the dark side.
Sister Awake was a fabulous journey that slipped into the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black moving into David Bowie’s Heroes, which was a highlight of the night.
The night’s biggest singalong was U2’s With Or Without You. And to hear Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye thrown in was wonderful.
Some fans weren’t happy about so many covers, but the night was loaded with Tea Party classics. Save Me, The River, The Bazaar, Fire In The Head, Temptation, Psychopomp, and Sun Going Down were all part of the night’s journey.
Showing that they are still a rock band the newly released Way Way Down and last year’s Black River is hard-edged rock at its finest that’s as good as any off their back catalogue, and shows they still have a lot to offer.
In a set that lasted almost two hours, it was apt that on the night before the shortest day of the year their encore included Winter Solstice.
While some may have been disappointed with too many covers, Martin’s interaction with the audience and self-deprecation lightened the mood for a showcase of 30 years of the band’s hits and their influences. I loved it. And they promised another bigger tour next year.
You’d be mad to miss it.
Review Contributed by Daron Jacks