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THE TEA PARTY – @ The Enmore Theatre 21.06.24

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The Tea Party at The Enmore Theatre, Sydney 

Friday, June 21st, 2024 

Supported by Human Kebab 

Words by Matt New 

Photos by Angie New 

The Tea Party is one of the most unique rock bands to have ever emerged from Canada. The three-piece band, hailing from Windsor, Ontario, is known for their progressive fusion of dark yet ethereal rock and roll soundscapes carefully interwoven with Middle Eastern influences. Their sound has affectionately come to be known as “Moroccan Roll”. They experienced an incredible amount of success in the 1990s, predominantly in their home country of Canada and Europe. Interestingly, they found a strong fanbase in Australia, which has always welcomed them with open arms as one of their honorary imports. Returning to Australia for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 5th record, “Triptych”, the Tea Party is set to captivate audiences once again. 

Opening for The Tea Party on their “Triptych” 25th-anniversary tour was Human Kebab, an artist I had never heard of until recently. I assumed they were some obscure band carefully selected to support. However, I was a little disappointed to learn that Human Kebab was a DJ. Given the occasion, another rock band for support would have been a better choice. But I am always happy to be proven wrong, and in this instance, I was. 

From the moment fellow Canadian DJ and rapper Jason Parsons, aka Human Kebab, stepped on stage dressed in a skeleton hoodie, he immediately captivated the Enmore faithful with a wide mix of ’90s and ’00s alternative classics. He was very excited to pronounce this was his first visit to Australia, and the reaction he received was very welcoming indeed. He played everything from Bjork to Tool, 311 to Fatboy Slim, even overlapping multiple tracks in a very creative manner, exploring new territories with these fan favorites. One fusion that particularly caught my attention was a blend of The Beatles’ “Come Together” with Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”. 

Although I was initially critical and pessimistic of this choice, I can now understand why he was selected. He managed to transport the audience back to an era of amazing music, in which The Tea Party were a big part of. Allowing everyone to escape for a brief moment, and relive some positive nostalgia in the process. I thoroughly enjoyed his set, and the selection of musical pieces he chose to play was incredibly familiar and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, and I’m sure I was not alone. 

I have lost count of how many amazing shows and live experiences I have witnessed at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. Fans packed in tightly, enthusiastically trying to get a good vantage spot to see this acclaimed trio perform. The venue erupted into a deafening cheer as The Tea Party finally arrived on stage and settled in with their instruments, with the loudest roar saved for frontman Jeff Martin, who proudly resides in Australia nowadays.

Opening with “The Halcyon Days” from “Triptych”, The Tea Party instantly locked into gear and sent the crowd into a trance, with the haunting Middle Eastern scales that emanate from Jeff Martin’s electric Oud. “The Bazaar” followed with a tidal wave of energy and extremely precise musicianship, characterised by Jeff Burrow’s infectious drum groove, Martin’s open-tuned guitar virtuosity and Stuart Chatwood’s thundering bass line. 

The Tea Party is genuinely one of the most amazing three-piece ensembles that modern contemporary rock has been blessed with, and that I have ever had the opportunity to see perform live. Their sound draws a lot of influence from bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Doors, with Martin’s gravelly vocal style often compared to the legendary Jim Morrison. His powerful and commanding voice soars high above arrangements that highlight intricate and thoughtful songwriting. Whether Jeff Martin is singing or conversing with his audience, his presence cannot be ignored. Martin, who possesses an incredibly dry wit, poked fun at himself for other reviewers mentioning he tends to talk too much between songs. I, for one, enjoy these candid moments between bands and the audience, especially when it’s the dulcet tones of Jeff Martin. 

One of the highlights of The Tea Party’s set was “Psychopomp”, a single taken from 1997’s “Transmission” record. The song is an unrelenting crescendo of emotion and musical brilliance that has a sense of intimacy and space and the crowd vigorously assisted Martin with the empowering chorus vocals. The Tea Party is certainly no one-trick pony, as they have many shades and dimensions to their sonic palette. They proceeded to show a more vulnerable and gentle side with one of Martin’s favorite songs the band has ever written, a track from “Triptych” called “Gone”. The arrangement was intimate, with Martin on acoustic guitar and vocals, and light accompaniment by Stuart Chatwood on keyboards. Before performing this gem, Martin made a clear point to aspiring musicians in the audience that less is more, and to trust the journey that the songwriting process takes you on. 

A common occurrence for many bands these days is to sneak in a few covers into their sets, and The Tea Party did this on a few occasions. A snippet of Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” preceded “These Loving Arms” and “Walk On The Wild Side” slotted perfectly into “Underground”. My question is, does a band of this caliber really need to incorporate such tactics with such an extensive back catalog of amazing music? Probably not, but I can see it does assist in keeping some audience members focused for just a fraction longer. Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, you cannot deny that The Tea Party does these covers perfectly with the utmost respect for the original artist. 

A medley of “Save Me” and “Samsara” began with Jeff Martin paying homage to one of his guitar idols, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. Drawing his violin bow over the strings of his Gibson Les Paul to dizzying effect. Drummer Jeff Burrows’ performance was particularly impressive on this track, as he immaculately applied his perfect sense of dynamics to every piece of his drum kit. Additionally, Stuart Chatwood is a massively underrated part of this band. His versatility to jump between his Fender Jazz bass, then perform an array of different keyboards and synthesizers, is quite the sight to behold. Not only does his involvement add a layer of mystery, his parts are massive, and are one of the many key ingredients to why this band sounds the way they do. 

“Heaven Coming Down” which is the band’s most recognized single commercially, was beautifully performed, and also comprised a rendition of the U2 classic “With Or Without You”, which also shares the same chord progression. Martin’s emotive vocals and mesmerizing 12-string electric guitar arpeggios had me completely fixated and lost in the moment. The remainder of the set included “Temptation” which is one of the most dark and groovy songs the band has at their disposal, and the entire Enmore crowd were collectively swaying to the soothing rhythms of this track. 

The Tea Party ended with an encore that included “Winter Solstice”, “Sister Awake”, and a snippet of “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. A perfect song to capture the dark energy their music takes influence from. Martin explained to his audience in one of his monologues, “a wise man once said, you cannot have light without darkness”. A very introspective thought that defines the band as a whole.They continue to grow and experiment, yet remain honest without becoming stale. It’s therefore encouraging to see the volume of fans that continue to pack out Australian venues for this iconic band’s performances. 

I appreciate that the band did not just play the entirety of “Triptych” from start to finish. Rather, they carefully selected songs that resonate with them on a personal level, and mixed them amongst their fan favorites. It made for an interesting experience, keeping me captivated for the entirety of their set. 

Special shout out to The Tea Party’s amazing crew, as they were efficient and reliable. Ensuring Martin and Chatwood had the correct instruments at their disposal in quick fashion, but also ensuring their comfort on stage, as the guys alternated between being seated and standing as they performed throughout the night. Martin made it abundantly clear that “it has been a while between drinks”, indicating that the band will be returning for more shows sooner rather than later. An exciting prospect, as they are one of the best live bands of their generation

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