It is hard to believe that it is the twentieth anniversary of the classic Tea Party album Transmission. What better way to commemorate the occasion than with a tour and even better at the iconic Thebarton Theatre. For a lot of people including myself Transmission was one of those albums that was a soundtrack to our youth and I couldn’t wait to hear it in its entirety. It is a loyal diehard crowd in attendance and numbers were probably down a bit compared to previous tours.
In a shroud of darkness Jeff Martin walked through a haze of lights and smoke beckoning to the crowd to stand up and get in to this rock show. Army Ants opened proceeding s to which Martin said “we’re just getting started” before ripping through Babylon. It was a then a quick story to the effect of “Twenty years of Transmission, a story of three men in Montreal, no mean feat coming of The Edges Of Twilight when we could have done Edges Of Twilight two, three and four. We went to some dark places but bought back some light and beauty” which heralded the start of Psychpomp.
Whilst Transmission is being played in full the set list did not follow the track order as it is on the album to which Martin concluded “you’re probably asking yourselves what are we going to do next, the mystery of this band!” Gyroscope and Emerald are songs rarely heard live if at all so it was great that these featured early in set one. Similarly, Alarum according to Martin is commonly requested at solo shows.
Martin did assert several times that The Tea Party are not the sort of band to rest on their laurels and are continually pushing forwards. Release is about people in power which they don’t appreciate and the audience sing-a-long was really something to behold. There was some reflection on the title track as Martin admitted he was glad that the demo for this song came to fruition. Pulse was outstanding and Martin pointed out a key lesson not to write a song about necrophilia and pointed out that in 2016 we lost some really big names that no one saw coming such as Prince and David Bowie with the latter being such an influence that the band wouldn’t be here without it. Aftermath followed leaving one song left off the album.
To wrap up set one Martin concluded that after twenty years a lot has happened, a lot of stories, a lot of myths, legends about black magic, cults, drugs and sex to which he responded “fair enough”. That served as the perfect intro to Temptation. There was a brief twenty minutes for the band to collect their thoughts and Martin said when they return shit is going to fall from the ceiling.
The encore was brilliant starting with The River which morphed in to Sober and Dazed And Confused and after Martin said “I told you” in response to his statement at the end of set one. It wouldn’t be a Tea Party show without The Bazaar and by gum it was awesome and even Martin suggested that there were some songs you don’t need to introduce. Relatively newish track The Ocean At The End was well received and so to the next one. Martin thought he had written a number one without a lot of people doubting that. Heaven Coming Down was sublime and the bridge in to U2’s With Or Without You was well paired.
Take nothing away from bass player/ keyboardist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows who as part of the trio make for one formidable combination. The encore finished with Save Me and in the ultimate act of showmanship Martin pulls out a bow and playing his guitar like a man possessed. Returning for a second encore and just when you think the band could not top things off any further Sisters Awake finished things off with The Rolling Stones Paint It Black and David Bowie’s Heroes tucked away in there. Great night and Martin said see you next year and no doubt we will with a new album and the twentieth anniversary of Triptych.
Review by Rob Lyon