Tea Party’s Nautical Adventure Sailed to Toronto
alreIn 2005, the members of the Tea Party decided they needed a break and that break lasted almost seven years. Now fast forward to 2014 and the trio of Jeff Burrows, Jeff Martin and Stuart Chatwood are on tour in support of their latest album The Ocean at the End.
From the first moment they stepped on stage at the Kool Haus in Toronto on Nov.27 to a capacity crowd of 1400+, they were welcomed with raucous applause. With such a enthusiastic reception and their fluid interaction during their opening song, you’d swear they had never taken a hiatus.
The wounds that may have existed to cause the hiatus, appear to be but a distant memory and the trio seems to have found their way back, reclaiming the joy of performing together as The Tea Party.
During the 2+ hour set, Jeff Martin showed that he has expanded his arsenal of instruments to include a double headed electric, Oud, sitar, doumbek drum, theremin- even playing his electric guitar with a bow.
When some bands decide to re-unite, you can often sense a lack of unity and an urgency for money rather than a true love for the group and music. However, this was far from the truth tonight- every interaction and words sung were genuine and was felt by the crowd.
For it being their first album and a paired tour in nearly a decade, the sound is different yet encouraging at the same time. The undertones of the exotica and grandiosity of the Tea Party of old was present but with a more refined sensibility.
The excitement in the air was palpable as the band wove their way through their massive catalogue, playing hits of old as well as songs from their new album.
The true sign of a genuine reunion was evident with the ease and proficiency showed from their first song- you could feel Chatwood’s pounding bass complimenting Burrows’ drum beats interwoven with Martin’s guitar.
Martin, who is known to be a guru of anything with strings, changed instruments for almost every song. He proved he is also quite adept at being a multi-instrumentalist with guitar in one hand, while performing with a theremin in the other.
During brief segues, Martin would banter on the mic at one point stating he “couldn’t be happier to be back and performing on stage with his two best friends”.
He then asked the crowd if they wanted to hear something from the new album- fans roared with excitement. They proceeded to treat the crowd with a performance of their new unreleased single.While performing “Water’s on Fire” we got to hear Martin’s signature baritone that has gotten grittier and more refined. Martin shows some self deprecating humour by stating that Fire in your Heads vocal melody: “It could be an app on your phone”.
Next he got everyone into the Christmas spirit by sitting down and performing an refreshing acoustic version of “Little Drummer Boy” on a sitar. He then grabbed a guitar and immediately started performing “Save Me” with transitions into other songs before proceeding back into “Save Me.”
Martin steps up to the mic and decides to let everyone know that the album, if they hadn’t already guessed, has a nautical theme and yes, that does include pirates-while on the subject, he was quick to clear up that “I had this look way before Johnny Depp did”. Martin then dedicates the title track of The Ocean at the End to a good friend in the audience.
He then addresses the audience, saying “by the way most of the rumours you’ve heard about me are true, I would never lead you into “Temptation””, performing said seminal hit.
“Toronto you fucking rocked the house tonight!” said Martin. The lights dimmed and the trio left the stage, of course reappearing for not one, but two encores.
Martin breaks into the opening verse of the 30 yr old anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” (Band Aid, 1984) just before abruptly stopping and declaring “That’s it! I’m not doing Boy George” eliciting laughs from the crowd.
Then he hops on a doumbek drum briefly before grabbing a double header and launching into “Heaven.” Halfway through the song he transitions into “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix before finishing “Heaven.” The trio leaves the stage again.
Martin comes back out and makes a Spinal Tap reference and asks the audience “Have you ever wondered what absolute power sounds like?” Then performs a riff of heavy picking that transitions into “Sister Awake.”
Martin, Chatwood and Burrows walks to the front of the stage take a bow, declaring to everyone in attendance that The Tea Party is back and better than ever. From the looks of the resistant triage, they are definitely rocking a second lease on life, and who knows where the ride will take them this time around.
Story by Tee Onek Photos by Ftfphotography