The Tivoli, Brisbane
Thursday October 23, 2014
Loud strumming guitars announce the impending arrival of The Tea Party. The music builds to a crescendo, and the anticipation in the air is palpable when the spot lights illuminate front man Jeff Martin. He launches into song and it is clear from the beginning that The Tea Party are here to enthral and enrapture us.
Finishing up the Australian tour in Brisbane at the Tivoli on October 23, The Tea Party haven’t graced our shores in a while and they have not lost momentum over the years. The Tea Party are here to promote their latest album, The Ocean at the End.
Launching into the intro, ‘The Bazaar’, the crowd exploded into applause as Jeff Martin queries “Oh you remember this one?” The song twists and turns with theatrical guitars and hypnotic lyrics. When you enter the world of The Tea Party you enter a realm of dark mystery, each hypnotic song taking you on a journey. Martin tells the song’s story with his hands and it is a full body experience almost like watching a play out on stage and he is the master story teller.
During ‘Waters on fire’ he commands Sarah McLeod on stage to sing the chorus, beer in hand and looking slightly sheepish before Jeff comes right down to the stage and proceeds to conduct the crowd to sing the chorus. “I want you to be free from me” he laments in deep baritone. The crowd is there with him as he sings so painfully of all that is lost.
Demonstrating his ability to aptly play several instruments, Martin brings out a sitar to open ‘Save Me’ before switching back to electric guitar to take the opening to a powerful crescendo. It is intoxicating in it’s sound and draws the listener in. When he asks the crowd to sing, they respond and he conducts, and an interaction between that sees the crowd as his pupils and Jeff as the teacher. He then pulls out a bass bow string and plays the guitar to take the song deeper in it’s journey and the reverberating sound it creates is masterful. He plays it until the bow breaks and he discards it, leading into a little Led Zeppelin, barely pausing for breath to lead into ‘Last Goodbye’ by Jeff Buckley. After all it wouldn’t be a Tea Party show without some Jeff Buckley. Martin slows it down to make it mournful, having fun with it, taking it to a powerful chorus; then onto the ending of ‘Save Me’ to wrap it up with the final verse.
During each song, Martin speaks to the crowd with his deep baritone voice. There is an air of arrogance at times, but it is an arrogance that is well earned. He speaks for a moment of the loss of his mother and how difficult it has been, but he’s sure she’s here watching. At times a sadness seems to permeate from Martin and envelope him; you get the feeling that he is singing for his Mother tonight as he glances towards the heavens at times throughout the show.
Introducing the title track, ‘The Ocean at the End’, he invites the crowd to “sit back, no don’t sit, stand back and close your eyes” inviting the crowd on a nautical journey that paints a picture of heartbreak. The song transforms and ‘Temptation’ begins, then he transforms it again leading into the song ‘Transmission’ then back to end with the chorus of ‘Temptation’. Closing the set, and Jeff has taken the crowd through a dark journey of his soul and his musical brilliance.
’Bring It On Home’ by Led Zeppelin is his encore choice, a little tongue in cheek and fun before transitioning into ‘Turn the Lamp Down Low’, then ‘Winter Solstice’ and ‘Sister Awake’ to wrap up the encore, and Jeff seems to want to keep playing all night on this musical journey.
Tonight, Martin has taken the crowd on a journey with music and sound. He is an artisan of sound he creates from the very depth of his being. If his mother is watching from the other side tonight she surely must be enjoying this emphatic journey from the best seat in the house.
Reviewer and Photographer: Amanda Starkey