The Tea Party is branding their tour as TX20 which is short for the 20th year since the release of the record Transmission.
Oddly enough, the last time I saw the Tea Party was in Calgary at the Warehouse, almost exactly 20 years ago, so it was a sort of homecoming. We comment that the seating in the Community Theatre seems inappropriate for a show like this when suddenly the lights dim, low ambient music starts and we see a shadowy figure walk to the front of the stage. He signals the crowd to stand up with a will imposing gesture and everybody immediately obeys. It was front man Jeff Martin who hasn’t seemed to age in 20 years. He has the same Johnny Depp-esque look as well (although he owned it way before Johnny). Black leather and a low hanging Les Paul, Jeff brings back rock alchemy in a darker, more Middle Eastern sound. And has a preference of playing scales in a harmonic minor or ‘Hungarian minor’ scale, nicknamed “mo-rroc-an roll”.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge Tea Party fan, yet I can say this was easily my favorite show of the year so far with a near flawless performance turned in by the veterans of Canadian alt rock. If you weren’t there, you missed out on a great party, good insight to an engaging Jeff Martin, and even some political opinions (which do not have any parallels with the political Tea Party). He changed instruments often and some need mentioning. Along with his Les Paul collection, he played a double necked Gibson SG and even this really cool middle eastern lute like instrument called an Oud. It sounded amazing plugged in and it made me want to buy one.
As for the band, I was happy the originals are all back together and surprisingly very different in appearance. If you saw them together in the street, you might think they were strangers. Big credit to drummer Jeff Burrows who played an active role with the audience and got some cheers for opting to sip (guzzle) some Okanagan vino. Ok, I gotta say it – Jeff’s hairdo is brave! Itt looks like he has a stylist backstage who only learned one 1990s style. Who cares? When you play like him you can wear a Carmen fruit hat if you like and still rock it. Stuart Chatwood on the other hand looks more hipster-nerd and although he started out playing only bass, he has evolved into an award-winning sound experiment. His skills are also displayed on music scores for video games like Prince of Persia.
There was no opening band for these guys, just one intermission after a riotous version of ‘Temptation’ that had me tempted to dance. I even saw some moshing goin on in the pit. We heard all sorts of influences like Doug Gilmour, Led Zepplin, of course, The Doors, and one of my favorite Canadian artists of all time Daniel Lanois. They played the U2 cover With or Without You transitioning from Heaven Coming Down as it’s the same chords and an easy mix. More covers included David Bowie’s Heroes, Walk on the Wild Side and he pays homage to some great artists taken too soon in 2016. Whether or not Jeff Martin practices black magic through his following of Allister Crowley and Jimi Page, he certainly does practice his stage show as if he made a deal with the devil.