Growing up my father would tell me the story of seeing Canadian band The Tea Party at a small bar over in Christchurch New Zealand during a week long residency, and how blown away he was by them at the time.
Now here we are a couple of decades later and we were lucky enough to come full circle and catch the “Moroccan Roll” trio at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre, celebrating 20 years of the band’s fourth record Transmission.
A near capacity audience starts filling the room while ambient blues fills the background of the theatre. Nice! We’re getting in the groove already as we prepare ourselves for two and a half hours of mystical, turbulent, dark and masterful progressive rock with plenty of splashes of blues, Industrial and progressive rock.
Not long after eight, The Tea Party waltz onto the Forum stage to their passionate and dedicated Australian audience. There are fans here that have been with the band since day one. They were immediately in raptures as the band dive into the full Transmission record. Beginning with ‘Army Ants,’ ‘Babylon’ and ‘Psychopomp,’ three completely diverse songs, you could sense this night was going to be full of emotion. The lyrical content of the album is shared with the audience throughout the show by frontman Jeff Martin in much detail, indicating that many of the lyrics came from a dark place with references to the afterlife. Many in the audience could relate and with love they sang the hits and released the darkness within. Even though many of us were strangers it felt like we had all been through so much together and now it was time to let the light in. We were floating above the clouds, and coincidentally as the night went on the animations on the big screen behind the band were images of clouds moving under the blue sky.
As we get to the end of set one I take a moment to soak in the sound and the light show during the final two tracks ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Temptation.’ The acoustics at the Forum are wonderful to say the least, but The Tea Party’s crew took it to a whole new level. The sound was crisp and precise. The volume not too overbearing and the separation between the instruments was simply perfection. The light show was simple but effective. It let the music speak and the musicianship was something sent from the heavens.
Middle Eastern melodies bounce off the walls and send us into a trance as we get into the second half of the night after a twenty minute intermission. Just like a proper theatre experience. The trio make their way through a greatest hits set with many of the band’s influences featuring in medleys throughout the set which created the ultimate singalongs, with crowd favourites like Led Zeppelin‘s ‘Dazed and Confused’ and U2′s ‘With or Without You.’ We are taken through a catalogue of the band’s music spanning more than two decades, much to the delight of the adoring audience including the most recent, ‘The Ocean at the End,’ the track from the 2014 album of the same name.
The night finishes with a spectacular finale showcasing the musicianship and camaraderie between Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows, showcasing solos and jams for the ages. This band has life in them yet and with large attendances in Australia and around the world like this, there’s plenty more to come.