Concert Review: The Tea Party @ CNE, Toronto 8/31/12

While waiting for The Tea Party to hit the stage, I found myself thinking of how the entire summer has been food for my teenage/university self.  In recent months, I’ve caught Bran Van 3000, Holly McNarland, Joan Osborne, Fiona Apple, Garbage and now The Tea Party.  It has been awesome!  I could wax poetic, but that’s the plain truth.

Opening for The Tea Party was duo The Standstills, an Oshawa-based indie band who will inevitably garner comparisons to The White Stripes for its female-drummer/male guitarist-vocalist combination.  It’s not an entirely off-base comparison:  Jonny Fox and and Renee Couture bring a gritty, bluesy-rock to the table, with the passion and surprisingly full sound they bring to the stage.  Where they differ, however, is possessing a more skilled drummer, for starters.  Their sound is also uniquely theirs, with a more full throttle rock edge that punches a listener and demands attention.  Plus, you can never go wrong with a solid cover of “Black Betty”.  It’s easy to see why The Tea Party brought them along, so take a wander over to their official site to give them a digital spin.

One of the highlights of The Tea Party’s sound is their use of diverse instruments and Middle Eastern influences, and this performance firmly established that they’ve retained that almost reverent appreciation of those core elements.  Blasting through a set loaded with huge radio hits, Martin, Burrows and Chatwood demonstrated that same unified energy I remembered from shows past.  Each member of the trio is spot-on, holding his own place in their three-pronged rock attack with ease.  There’s a genuine joy for performance that emerges through Martin’s banter; he seemed more relaxed and at home on stage than ever.  It’s a positive sign, emphasized with the delicious declaration at the end of the set that the band “is back for good”.

The Tea Party in their live realm is particularly enthralling.  Dashing together covers of artists they enjoy and slipping them between the lines of their own creations, one is always alert, craning the ears for another aural treat.  Sing-alongs are common and very much encouraged, building a communal energy.  While this show was less than ideal – half of the audience was casually stopping by (and sticking around) – the crowd was only too happy to chime in on choruses.  The forthcoming live recording from their recent Australian tour is on my to-buy list, and really, it should be on the list of any true fan of music as an art form.

Set highlights included “Heaven Coming Down” (forever my favourite tune of theirs, for personal reasons), the blended “Sister Awake/Paint It Black”, “Psychopomp” and “Sun Going Down”.

You can get yourself over to The Tea Party’s official site and be mesmerized.  Welcome back, boys.  Please don’t leave again; music needs you and your “Moroccan Roll”.

Setlist

Writing’s on the Wall
The Bazaar
Lullaby
Psychopomp
The Messenger [Daniel Lanois]
Fire in the Head
Sun Going Down
Save Me
Heaven Coming Down
Temptation

Sister Awake / Paint It Black [The Rolling Stones]

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