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The Tea Party, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney – 21/07/2012

Written by Catherine Robinson on 23rd July, 2012

Image for The Tea Party, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney – 21/07/2012

I haven’t seen many reunion gigs. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any. I’m the kind of person who rolls my eyes at the reformed band – thinking, “These guys clearly spent the money from the last tour, record sales are slow and now they want a bigger house” or something equally as cynical. I mean, how many times do bands really reform because they have an epiphany that the music is all that matters?

When I heard that The Tea Party had reformed and were touring, I thought this would either have to be an amazing gig or a straight out train wreck (it’s no secret that The Tea Party broke up on bad terms) so naturally I went along.

Sad to say, this show was neither amazing nor a train wreck. I know, I know, it’s a bit perverted to want a show to be terrible, but tell me honestly, how many of you tuned in to The Shire?

Their collection of blues meets Eastern/metal fusion songs were executed with enough passion to keep us watching, but not quite enough to deliver the level of excitement members of the audience remember from the early days of Tea Party gigs.

With no new output for almost eight years, they played all the hits and the more obscure tunes that have been sweeping fans away since they first hit the scene almost seventeen years ago. Martin’s richly charismatic voice, the Tea Party’s familiar riffs, and the pleasantly virtuosic acoustic moments reminded us that sometimes it’s nice to hear people that can play well as opposed to fashionably.

There was almost an awkward juxtaposition in the rooms’ reception of enigmatic frontman Jeff Martin. While it was refreshing to see someone carry on like a good old-fashioned frontman – Jeff clearly had the crowd in his hands conducting the applause and pulling at our heart strings with familiar banter – at the same time, he lost us a little when it became apparent that aside from riding on nostalgia, tonight’s show seemed to focus entirely on the ego of Jeff Martin.

The room felt a bit uneasy when Jeff launched into pro-Satan and pro-drug use rants on and off throughout the night. Something felt altogether too obvious and a little unexpected about such emphatically delivered sentiments. Indeed, the only new song of the evening was an anti Bible belt blues/country style tale of Jeff’s rejection from heaven and inevitable decent into hell. They lost a few punters at the point where the song began to converse with Jesus and St Peter. I don’t think the audience saw that one coming.

Having been to a few Tea Party gigs, I’ve never heard any blatant religious sentiment before. Sure, there are both spiritual and religious references in Tea Party tunes, but we like the level of subtlety that leaves one wondering exactly what a song is about, while allowing you to feel that you somehow already know.

With the extensive use of referencing throughout the set – Tool’s Sober, Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye, Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, and Rolling Stone’s Paint it Black to name a few – I just can’t help feeling this is the cash-in on nostalgia tour, which maybe, judging by the packed hall of dedicated and satisfied looking punters, is just what the fans are looking for.

Nonetheless, I’m hoping the confirmed new album the boys are working on, due out in 2013, will prove me wrong about this tour and see the band I once missioned out to Fairfield RSL club to see (back in 1999) take the music to new and exciting levels.

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