MARCH 31st 2017
Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

Being a child coming into my musical mecca in the 90s, there was no way I was going to miss a night with The Tea Party at the Commodore. I was pumped like Arnold before a governor’s race.

The band began with a heavy atmosphere, as the album Transmissions was known for.  On the twenty year anniversary tour for this album, Jeff Martin (guitar, lead vocals, etc.), Stuart Chatwood (bass, keys, percussion, etc.), and Jeff Burrows (drums, percussion, etc.) spent the first ninety or so minutes playing through the full album, though out of order. Each man was so on-point I was absolutely mesmerized.  The sound and composition coming from just three men was overwhelming.

About six years ago my supremely non-musical sister saw The Tea Party (likely the only time she has seen a band without me or my esteemed influence) and she said they were amazing.  I would have to add that they were also humble, personable, and absolutely immersed in their craft. Martin made reference to the hells he and his bandmates travelled to and crawled back from throughout their musical career, the total disgusting nature of Trump’s view and treatment of women, and the heartfelt loss of so many great musicians in 2016: namely David Bowie.  Several tunes in the set were dedicated to these along the way.

After a CD-quality rendition of “Temptation”, the men took a short break after which they returned with an eclectic mix of tunes from their archives.  They got back at it with “The Writing’s On The Wall”, and bounced through history with “Fire In The Head”, “The Ocean At The End”, “Heaven’s Coming Down” (split with U2’s “With Or Without You”), “Save Me”, and a massive encore with “Sister Awake” intermingled with covers of “Paint It Black” (Rolling Stones), “Under Pressure” (David Bowie), “Heroes” (Peter Gabriel), and “Walk On The Wild Side” (Lou Reed). Given that it’s been quite a while since The Tea Party toured, let alone made it out west, the crowd was not only thirsty for this show, they were parched. I can personally say this only just whet my musical palette and I know it won’t be too soon for me to see these Ontario beauties again.

To spread some glitter on an already shiny show (black glitter of course), not only is each band member a multi-instrumentalist (which they happily demonstrated), I have to say Burrows has the loosest wrists in the drumming business.  How he even controls those things to keep such impeccable timing is mind-warping.  Chatwood seamlessly transitioned from his keys to his bass strings and back, broadening the sphere of the group sound on every number. And Martin, of course, controlled the room with his deep, bottom of the whiskey barrel voice.  Despite his signature frontman status, Martin further commanded the room when he took a violin bow to his guitar on “Save Me”, in true guitar legend fashion.

This was an absolutely unreal performance, and only serves to demonstrate not only to the audience but the to the band themselves that The Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with.

Not with standing the majority of The Tea Party’s success is bulked ten years back or more, the demand for their completely unique musical menagerie is clearly alive, well, and massively unsatiated.  Feed me, guys.  I’d like some more.