Words by Tracey Moyle.
Photos By Luke Sangiorgio. Full Gallery HERE.
When Grunge was taking over the world in the 90’s Canadian band, The Tea Party emerged with a sound unlike any other. Their blend of heavy blues laced industrial rock, infused with Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and even at times Celtic sounds has made them one of the most uniquely progressive bands of the last 30 years.
Saturday night at The Valley Drive In, The Tea Party played the second last show of their Black River Tour which wraps up in Adelaide tonight, surrounded by many fans, some who had obviously been with them from the beginning. It would be easy to say the crowd ranged in age from 20’s to 60’s, an indication of the depth of their music and a sound that resonates at a soul level.
Opening tonight were brilliant new Gold Coast band The Black Armada. Not knowing what to expect the crowd were quickly attentive and up front once the rock started and singer Simon Meli’s powerfully perfect voice echoed out across the venue.
The Black Armada’s heavy blues/stoner rock sound jolted everyone present to attention with guitarist Christian Tryhorn’s brilliantly demanding heavy riffs. From the opening song’s Odyssey and King of the Mountain, they warranted their position of opening act to such an iconic band. Drummer Jack Parks and bass player Jamie Roberts had you ‘feeling’ the music with the, at times psychedelic rock, sound pounding the rhythm and beats through every rock fibre of our being. Track after track they kept the vibe high and finishing off with simple crisp good old rock sounds with Hey Zeus and Love Reign. The crowd’s response to a band so new, with yells of more, indicated that this will definitely not be the last we see of these guys.
The fans moved in ready for the main act. The vibe at The Valley Drive In is very different to the dark sultry feeling of the Tivoli, with the open air stage. Even with the chill in the air, there was a warm vibe of excitement resonating around the crowd. The lights eventually went down and the music started with a roar filling any empty audible space.
Opening with The River taking everyone right back to where it began, from their 1993 album ‘Splender Solis’ it was the perfect start encouraged with yells of approval from the fans with Tool’s hit Sober mashed in. Jeff Martin’s powerful vocals reminding everyone why The Tea Party have remained so important in their own musical journey. The Bazaar was next with that familiar ‘Moroccan roll’ sound that has given them their authenticity. The mystical Psychopomp from the 1997 ‘Transmission’ album had us all completely enthralled and carried away by the music, lost in memories of what The Tea Party meant to each of us over many years.
They led into their new release Way Way Down with Led Zeppelin’s, In My Time of Dying in a show of fusion mastery. Jeff Burrow’s epic drumming kept it tight and from the heavy power beats to the almost tribal sounds of the bands songs, pushing home the truth – that these three musicians combine to create perfect balance. Martin then took a moment and spoke about the intolerance’s that the world is infected with and his core belief that others should be free to ‘live the way they want to live out their lives’, along with his faith that, with our future generations, the hatred will be released. Naturally flowing into the hypnotic, Release.
With Stuart Chatswood on bass and keys their sound is cemented in a heavy ambience and is central to their sound. The night continued with Halycon Days – more Middle Eastern infused sounds with Martin swapping to his duel necked guitar and this combined with his intense vocals, told a capturing a story through song. Save Me, an obvious crowd favourite was next, again recreated as a mix with Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye. Singing along was mandatory at this point. Heaven Coming Down followed again mashed into U2’s With Or Without You. Next, another recent release and the backbone of their tour, Black River with Martin’s sultry vocals confirms The Tea Party still have their finger on the musical pulse. Perhaps like a fine bottle of Red, becoming even better with time. Smooth blues infused rock with a sound that is uniquely theirs. The popular Temptation was last to encore and met with a roar with the crowd collectively joining in.
The encore was a last burst of brilliant combinations with Martin on acoustic guitar sealing the performance perfectly with a mix of Sister Awake, Rolling Stones Paint It Back and Bowie’s Heros, intertwining them into a perfect melding of iconic songs.
After a strong show of gratitude and adoration the congregation slowly dispersed with their heads swimming, full of memories of what The Tea Party represented to them and how their influence shaped their lives musically or spiritually. It was certainly an experience that, if you haven’t had as a fan, you most definitely must.