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| 3 October 2012 | Reply

Metro City, Perth, Western Australia
By Shane Pinnegar  |  Photography by Maree King

There are many who thought it would be a cold day in hell before Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows would share a stage again, much less tour their native Canada and Australia, release a live album (due soon) and enter the studio as a band again – which Martin announces tonight will be happening in early 2013!

Everything about tonight evoked their glory days as the dark and brooding link between Led Zeppelin and 90’s Indie rock. From a moody entry amidst smoke and lights, through a short feedback intro and through many of their best loved songs The Tea Party proved that time had not reduced their enigmatic, charismatic presence.

Sinewy and beguiling openers The River and The Bazaar showcase everything that made The Tea Party so unique – Martin’s rich baritone, Chatswood and Burrows’ immaculate instrumentation and their love of Eastern rhythms.

Lullaby – the only song to feature from 2001’s The Interzone Mantras, their second last album – was described by Martin as “a song for the little ones which turned out a bit demonic…” Tonight, as on the album, it is hypnotic and mesmerising and – yes – more than just “a bit” demonic.

Looking as fit and trim as they’ve been since their 2005 breakup, their onstage interaction proved that their former animosity has dissipated, if not been completely resolved.

Correspondeces builds to a mighty climax after a simple yet electrifying Jeff Martin guitar solo; then a touching tale of Jeff Buckley handling lights for the band in Sydney many years ago leads them into a snippet of Buckley’s hauntingly beautiful The Last Goodbye. As the band take up a cover of Daniel Lanois’ The Messenger, they layer it with such power and beauty that is redolent in what they don’t play as much as in what they do.

Fire In The Head’s monstrous riff ploughs down all before it, reminding one and all that it remains one of the 90’s most potent anthems, while its atmospherics and lyrical mysticism channel a higher power.

Despite a plea for silence during the gentle acoustic The Badger, much of this instrumental was drowned out by the disrespectful elements in the crowd who seemed to talk louder and more intrusively than during the more bombastic numbers.

Another acoustic number, Shadow Of The Mountain, fared better as Martin engaged the crowd with a tale of descending a mountainside whilst coming down off a psilocybin trip.

Another Triple J favourite, Suns Going Down, showcased another huge riff, before Zahira evoked the sounds of a Moroccan bazaar before the impetus grows and it becomes a huge and powerful beast.

Martin takes a turn on a traditional instrument for Halcyon Days, before strapping on a double necked axe to another song from their 1991 debut album that made their name – the classic Save Me. Taking the song on an epic trip into Led Zep’s Kashmir for an extended violin bow solo, Martin takes the song to an epic climax.

Which the multiple distractions of Martin’s dark and dangerous charisma, and predilection for exotic instrumentation and song structures, it’s easy to forget that he is quite the guitar hero. Whether it’s a double necked Les Paul, an acoustic guitar or a traditional Middle Eastern instrument, he flays the strings with consummate skill and style, throwing rock shapes all the while.

The inclusion of Heavens Coming Down brought even more smiles to the faces of the heaving crowd, sidestepping briefly into All Along The Watchtower, then back again as Martin exhorted “Perth, you’re all stars”, before another epic finish.

A singalong lightened up the rather dark Release – originally recorded for the White Ribbon charity against violence towards women, and Temptation closes out the main set.

The three wunderkinds return triumphantly to the stage for the acoustic stomp of Winter Solstice, Chatswood coaxes magic by turning the handle on some exotic hurdy gurdy sounding instrument while Burrows dances around with the infectious and manic enthusiasm he has shown all night, clapping and gesturing to all to get up and dance.

Finally, Sister Awake – and it’s sidestep into Paint It Black – showcases three men at a point in their life where they have successfully risen above their personal problems and are clearly relishing playing to such an enthusiastic crowd.

Martin may be the focal point of The Tea Party with his Machiavellian visage and distinctive voice, but there’s no denying the virtuosity and chemistry of all three when they hit their stride. It’s that “greater than the sum of their parts” thing, and it’s good to have them back!

The River
The Bazaar
Last Goodbye/The Messenger
Fire In The Head
The Badger
Shadow Of The Mountain
Nobody’s Fault But Mine/Sun Going Down
Halcyon Days
Save Me/Kashmir/Save Me
Heavens Coming Down/All Along The Watchtower

Winter Solstice
Sister Awake/Paint It Black

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Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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