The Tea Party @ The Astor Theatre
Friday, October 27, 2017
The Tea Party returned to our stages once more Friday night to celebrate twenty years since hit album, Transmission, promising to play the seminal album in it’s entirety, followed by a set of their greatest hits. A large crowd of what seemed to be only over 30s (I swear I haven’t seen so many dudes in black suede jackets since some Hills house party in like ’98) seemed lubed and anxious to see Jeff Martin and his cohorts deliver their dark sermons.
With no support act they started on Army Ants and the theatre soon wailed with industrial, guttural explosions coming from the keyboards of Stuart Chatwood and Martin’s guitar. The setlist continued in an order quite different to the original album, but the large, all encompassing sound produced by only three musicians was impressive. Gyroscope really got the crowd moving, the song sounding hypnotic yet heavy as fuck, and seemed to capture a majority of the audience in its trance (or was that the O.G. Cheese?)
Jeff bought up “beauty” in some banter and then the band delivered some of their own with Psychopomp. Bringing the crowd down briefly, but then uplifiting us all through the chorus, most sang along with Martin as if it was a kind of “Hallelujah” moment at some dark church. The Tea Party continued through Transmission, sounding powerful and reminding us why they’re so well regarded. The sound was huge, Jeff’s vocals soared and provided a focus to the slight industrial onslaught.
The band broke for intermission after finishing the first set with hit single Temptation. When they returned the concert seemed to lose it’s fire. Straight up rock song, Writings on the Wall, got things moving, but failed to really inspire. The Ocean At The End seemed a total miss, but thankfully The Bazaar brought the vibes back.
Heaven Coming Down followed and things seemed to be getting back on track, but then it devolved into what seemed to me to be an indulgent covers party. With or Without You, Last Goodbye, the Dazed and Confused solo from Song Remains the Same, Paint It Black, Heroes and I’m sure one or two others whose riffs I recognised, but which I couldn’t put my finger on, all got a look in. I get that The Tea Party are known for playing covers live, but I was hoping their greatest hits wouldn’t be an assortment of others’ greatest hits.
The night ended with Sister Awake being the bread to some of the aforementioned covers sandwich. It seemed like a good chunk of us wandered to the Scotto to argue about which half was better. There seemed to be a fair amount of disagreement amongst the punters, but for this reviewer my money was all-in on the first half.
Photos by Elspeth Erickson Photography