On an unseasonably warm Seattle Friday night, a band of almost mythical proportions was in town to play live for the first time in ions, if you don’t count The Tea Party‘s acoustic show at Easy Street Records on Thursday. Not just another in a long line of fantastic Canadian power-trios, these guys never quite got the full respect they deserved, although they are well known in the circles of intellectual hard rockers and have a pretty legit cult following.
The Tea Party has all sorts of influences from prog-rock , hard rock, a little bit of blues and Middle Eastern influences, sometimes called “Moroccan roll” by the media. The band was active throughout the 1990s and through 2005 when they broke up. They reassembled in 2011 and are touring behind the release of the 2014’s The Ocean At The End. View concert photos HERE.
Jaded Mary warmed the crowd up with its own brand of rock meets progressive rock, powered by the extremely blistering licks of axeman Tim Bertsch and the powerful vocals of frontman David James. Their 10 song set electrified and pumped up both the fans that came to see them and the greater number that were there to see The Tea Party. With several fans bouncing around with lighted green devil horns on their heads, it was clear people came to have fun.
The Showbox was packed close to capacity near the end of Jaded Mary’s set and the electricity in the room was as thick as the fog over Elliot Bay. In between bands the Showbox crowd was turned on to some Middle Eastern influenced music as a bit of precursor as to what was to come. The show-goers excitedly watched the guitar, bass and drum techs meticulously ready the stage for the main event. When the cords were gaff-taped to the floor and the water bottles were all in place it was time for The Tea Party to take the stage.
When the band came out the audience erupted in applause and the guys were delighted at the greeting.
Let’s get this out of the way right now, The Tea Party is one of THE absolute best live bands on the planet. Not just because they are an incredible trio of musicians but because of the way Jeff Martin plays to the crowd. A very spiritual man, he connected with them in a very loving way and the fans were all his, all night long. We got the sense that it was quite mutual as he seemed genuinely moved by the love the audience showed back to him.
As they powered through song after song, both old and new, the crowd swayed and sang along but especially on “Water’s On Fire’ as Martin encouraged the fans in an animated way to sing from their souls(and their diaphragms). He mimicked the moves of a conductor as the crowd sang louder and louder, After the song ended he smiled and looked at the crowd told them that was beautiful. He clearly was moved by the engagement.
At one point, he got down on his knees in front of the lucky people that had positioned themselves next to stage and serenaded them, he talked to them, he made them feel like they were part of this show and indeed they were.
By the time the band got to one of their most recognizable songs “Save Me” which tore up Seattle rock in the mid-nineties, the crowd had been worked into a frenzy. The Tea Party could have finished the set off by playing covers of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus and the fans wouldn’t have cared but of course the band didn’t.
The multi-tiered epic rock opera that is “Save Me” started off with Martin displaying his master of eastern instruments with the other Jeff in the band, drummer Jeff Burrows calmly and meticulously following along. Master of the bass, Stuart Chatwood held down the lower end as the song rose and dove through the crescendos. Martin’s voice is as powerful and Morrison-like as it has always been and he let it all hang out on that song. Somewhere in the middle of the song, they decided to go into a spot-on rendition of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir”, which made perfect sense, since Martin has been compared to flamboyant Zeppelin guitar-wizard, Jimmy Page. Kashmir would have been good enough but not for The Tea Party. Jeff Martin busted out the violin bow and stroked it across his Gibson, perhaps summoning the Gods of rock & roll as he played the mash-up equivalent of Eddie Van Halen‘s guitar opus, “Eruption”. [EDITOR’S NOTE] The band made it clear on Facebook that is definitely wasn’t “Eruption“. Then they finished the original song. It was as incredible of a display of musicianship as you will ever see and crowd thundered with approval.
Another highlight of the evening was a magnificent performance of a new song from the band called “The Ocean At The End”, the title track from their latest album that came out earlier in 2014 which featured an aural segment that is not unlike Pink Floyd’s mind-fuck that was called “Brain Damage” from Dark Side of The Moon. The Showbox was washed in a sea of unrecognizable but mesmerizing noise as the band rolled through that one, much to the delight of the crowd.
Normally when bands that have been around for a few decades or more such as The Tea Party come to town, there can be a lot of yawning and side talk when the band plays their newer music. That quite simply did not happen at The Showbox on Friday night, in fact as we already wrote, the fans responded in an amazing way to Water’s On Fire. like they’ve been hearing it for years.
Jeff Martin, the ringleader, songwriter, poet and master musician lead the army of faithful Tea Party followers into an absolute mesmerizing state of bliss and even though the band took several years off and did their own things during that time, they clearly are having a blast bringing this incredible music back to the fans that love them.