The Tea Party were my first… the first real Rock show I ever attended, if you don’t include arena shows sitting up in the highest level of nosebleed seats. I won tickets from CFOX radio in Vancouver. The show was at the Commodore Ballroom (famous bouncing floor), I could only find standing room right beside the huge speakers on stage right, and the experience was so intense, so sensual, so unprepared for, that it will stay with me forever.
That’s a hard thing to live up to, a memory.
Even harder when at least ten years has passed between that experience and the new concert! But The Tea Party know their stuff and last night’s show in Vernon BC not only brought those memories flooding back, but added to them.
Touring on the 20th Anniversary of their sophomore album, The Edge of Twilight, The Tea Party broke the show into two sets; The Edge of Twilight was played in its entirety for set one, brief intermission, and the band returned to rock out with a handful of greatest hits as well as a 3 song encore. Track listing for a show of this magnitude is irrelevant – yes they played ‘Bazaar’ (my favorite Tea Party song since first hearing it), yes they played ‘Sister Awake’, and yes they played most of the audience’s favourite Tea Party songs judging by the crowd reaction – but it’s how the band made me / us feel that is most relevant.
From the first opening notes that hit me right ‘there’ (heart/chest) to the closing notes of ‘Temptation’ (which they sang twice with a short teasing interlude in the middle of), the songs have a sensuality and life of their own. Alternating between energy boosters and the softer songs, the crowd began the show like most crowds in sit-down theatres do – not knowing whether to stand or ??? First thing singer Jeff Martin did was ‘get up get up’ with hands and the place exploded. Each time we sat down, Martin or bassist Stu Chatwood would get us up again.. even drummer Jeff Burrows came out from behind his kit once to get us clapping to the synth and guitar intro of the next song. By mid concert a few brave souls were in that no-man’s land between the front row and the stage edge, dancing, swaying, leaning on stage front, and thankfully the venue staff allowed it, which loosened up the audience even more.
The band are extreme professionals with each of the three members knowing not just how to play their instruments, but translate that into texture and light and emotions. Jeff Martin played a hurdy-gurdy which dates back 100 yrs , used a violin bow on his guitar, and had some sort of flute/recorder for the intro of another song. Stu Chatwood plays bass, but also keyboards making them sound at times like bagpipes or cathedral chimes, and Jeff Burrows is the most inventive crisp sounding drummer I’ve ever watched live. No straight rock 4/4 beat here, Burrows fills the notes and changes the sub-tempo within the main framework. These guys are the guys who’s second album demos (20 yrs ago) sounded more polished and well rounded than most other bands’ finished products. (see our album review here).
The Tea Party are a rare breed – a band that can fill any size stage and play to stadiums or small intimate venues with equal ferocity and intimacy. My good fortune allowed me to sit mid-theatre for the first set and experience the overall effect of the band and the stunning moving images behind them (supplied by artist Robert Buratti), The second set i was able to stand up front and rock out with the ball crowd leaning against the stage front. Neither time did I feel the band played only to one level of seats.
And the concert? Still intense. Still memorable. Still sensual. And Martin’s voice? Still has it. Tempered by more smiles and less brooding countenance, and a few more laughs with himself and the audience between songs. And a chemistry with his band mates that is still going strong after more than 20 yrs.
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