Words and Pics: www.hoskingindustries.com.au
I'm ashamed to admit it, but this was actually the first time I'd seen The Tea Party live. I'd been into their music since the 1990s and had seen one of Jeff Martin's incredible solo shows way back in 2010 at Sydney's The Basement. But I'd never been able to see The Tea Party.
Tonight, I was in for a real treat.
The night was opened by local Newcastle 'Alternative Punk' four-piece Linear. What lucky little sods they were. While the crowd was still pretty thin for their performance, opening for such an established and respected international group is no small honour.
Linear's songs were pretty solid and the musicianship was strong, too.
However, the vocals let the band down and I'm sure that more than a
few punters were left wondering why another of the countless hyper-talented local outfits weren't chosen in their place.
By the time The Tea Party took to the stage a little after 9pm, the NEX Theatre (still quite large despite the flanks being curtained off) had finally filled substantially. Opening with 'The River' from Splendor Solis, the band worked its way through a career-defining set that included tracks like 'The Bazaar', 'Psychopomp', 'Save Me', 'Temptation' and 'Sister Awake'. They even managed to squeeze a faithful cover of U2's 'With or Without You' right in the middle of 'Heaven's Coming Down'.
Despite the years, and Martin's prodigious and prolific career, his rich baritone roar has lost none of its impact and intensity. He stalks the stage with the swagger of someone who's been doing it all his life, part Jim Morrison, even larger part Jimmy Page. Yet (and despite the violin bow and double-neck Gibson SG usage) it never feels like pastiche.
Martin has made it all part of his DNA and his performance is certainly a large part of the success of tonight's show (and we'd bet, any Tea Party show).
Bassist Stuart Chatwood is pretty restrained on stage. At times switching between bass and a few keyboards and pedals. Drummer Jeff Burrows, complete with Mod hairdo and endlessly chewing gum, is a dynamo on the kit and propels the Tea Party juggernaut ever onward.
Together, they make a hell of a racket for a three piece and tonight's performance does nothing but cement their place in rock history and Australia's heart. The Canadian band has always done well over here and if the new tracks they played tonight are anything to go by, they will continue to do so for some time to come.
Be sure to keep an eye out for tour dates in 2020 when the band tours on the back of its 30th anniversary.