Concert Review: The Tea Party @ The Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada

The Tea Party are back together for a short little tour, 6 years after breaking up. The Toronto Star has an interview with Jeff Martin outlining why the band is back together (hint: money??), and how they hope to put their past differences behind them.

On stage last night, it appeared that time has healed all wounds within the band. Playing for the first time in Toronto in 5-6 years, and being on one of the hottest days in the history of Toronto, the Tea Party had a mountain ahead of them. I must admit, Jeff Martin looks EXACTLY the same as he has the past 5, 10, 15 years. He must be cryogenically frozen when he is off the stage.

The band opened up with Writing on the Wall, from much neglected album (and rightly so) Seven Circles, their final album before disbanding. This was the only song they played from this album.

The next song was early career hit, The Bazaar. The band sounded tight, as if they had spent more than a few days getting back into shape for gigs.

After the song, lead singer Jeff Martin engaged the crowd for the first time, announcing in horror movie fashion, “Weeeeeeee’re baaaaaaaaaaack!” Martin also engaged in some concert shtick, telling the audience that he “can’t hear as well as he used to, so the crowd will have to be extra loud tonight.”

The Tea Party then went into Lullaby, followed by Psychopomp. Although Jeff Martin’s vocals had been excellent through 4 songs, unfortunately, Martin chose to gently sing the vocals at the end of Psychopomp, rather than shred his voice as in the studio version of the track. I figured it was an artistic choice for the song, and not that Martin can’t do the vocals anymore, but as the concert went on, my theory might have been wrong.

After Psychopomp, Martin jokingly sung Nelly’s Hot in Herre, commenting that he “wants the Sound Academy to pay their air conditioning bills. Other than that, no complaints.”

Next up was The Messenger, which is a Daniel Lanois song covered by the Tea Party on Triptych. This version was dramatically slowed down live.

Before launching into the next song, Martin revealed the Tea Party could’ve been millionaires if ringtones existed in 1995. He demonstrated by singing the first word to the next song, Fire in the Head – “You….”, followed by the dramatic pause in the song. He inserted cell phone standards in the tone of the song, such as You….got a message, and You….need to wake up. Martin concluded that this proves the band was always ahead of their time.

Correspondences, from the Edges of Twilight, was played next, followed by crowd sing along Heaven Coming Down, the only number one single the band had in Canada.

Sun Going Down followed, and the band continued to sound quite tight, and Martin’s vocals carried him solidly, for now. After the song, Martin commented that it was so hot that he was going to need a medic after the show, preferably blonde and 26.

The band went into a non-English intro jam session for a bit, which led to the Halcyon Days. The crowd did not respond well to the semi-obscure track. Jeff Martin brought out a bow for the next song, and jammed on his guitar for a bit before going into Save Me. During this song, Martin didn’t sing the chorus once, perhaps saving his vocals once again. Rather, he implored the crowd to sing it, which they did loudly. Martin also segued into a Jeff Buckley song, Last Goodbye, which suits his vocal range.

Release, off of Transmission, was next, with Jeff Martin asking the crowd to sing along for the White Ribbon Campaign, which is for Men Against Violence Against Women, a cause the band has long supported.

The opening set closer was Temptation. Again, Martin backed out of the vocal-shredding chorus, again asking the crowd to sing it. I began to get suspicious at this point, and a bit angry that he was not challenging himself and testing himself. I think he could’ve done it, as he had done a few similar lines during the night. Perhaps he should be forgiven, given the ridiculous heat. Is there another reason why he was backing out? Perhaps he hasn’t regained his vocal strength yet? Given that he just toured with another band of his, I do not know if that is the case.

After departing the stage, the Tea Party returned for an encore, which kicked off with instrumental track Winter Solstice. This lead into fan favourite Sister Awake. Once again, Martin opted out of the extreme vocals, bringing it to a softer vocal, or having the crowd sing it. Did anyone else notice what was going on, or were we all slaves to the perceived fan sing along invitations? Sister Awake had Rolling Stones’ cover Paint It Black sung midsong, which then cut back to Sister Awake.

The show lasted just under 2 hours. Jeff Martin repeatedly called drummer Jeff Burrows and Stuart Chatwood his best friends, and promised the Tea Party are back to stay. We will see if this leads to another studio album.

PHM Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Setlist for the Tea Party @ The Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada – July 21, 2011

Writings on the Wall
The Bazaar
The Messenger
Fire in the Head
Heaven Coming Down
Sun Going Down
Halcyon Days
Save Me (plus Jeff Buckley Last Goodbye interlude)

Winter Solstice
Sister Awake (plus Paint It Black interlude)

The Tea Party – Psychopomp

[youtube GYwGsaSDEqg]

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5 Responses

  1. Joram says:

    Lullaby is from Interzone Mantras. Other than that, good review.

  2. Pete! says:

    This oversight has been corrected – thanks for catching that!

  3. krou says:

    It was disappointing that Jeff Martin didn’t seem to try for those vocal shredding moments but instrumentally they all were dead on. I was blown away with how amazing they sounded. I really hope they come out with an album and are truly baacckkkk!!

  4. Jeps says:

    A absolutely agree about the vocals. I’ve seen them play countless times throughout their career and those songs will always mean a lot to me. But I’d rather remember them sung propperly then see a reunion where Martin half asses it.

    He DID try to hit the screamy note once – when they came back to Sister Awake from Paint it Black… but his voice broke.

    Maybe he needs to see a vocal coach to get it back… but his healthy ego will probably keep him from doing so.

    Jeff Burrows was the best part of the show.

  1. 2011/09/19

    […] rockers, the Tea Party, recently reunited and played several shows across Canada (PHM review of their Toronto show is here). In stark contrast, the Tea Party of the United States are not making music, they are making runs […]