The Tea Party stepped on stage at Caesars Windsor for their highly anticipated hometown Black River Tour to a cheering crowd on Thursday night (April 18). They kicked off the concert with “Writing’s on the Wall” from their 2004 album release Seven Circles. The crowd was immediately up on their feet singing the chorus.
As lead singer Jeff Martin told us ahead of the Black River Tour back in December, the band has a few more releases which will follow their latest single Black River. He hinted that fans may get a taste of their new music during the tour. “We’ll be eluding to some of the new songs on the tour, we’re not going to give them all away. We can throw flashes of melodies in between the signposts, there’s certain songs that if we didn’t play live, then there would be a riot. So songs like ‘Sister Awake’, ‘The Bazaar’, and ‘Temptation’ are like signposts we have to get to in the show, but in between, how we get to those signposts, well you know who can say.”
As The Tea Party took the audience on a journey from “signpost to signpost” Martin took on the role of narrator, often coming off as silly and corny, sometimes with a dash of sarcasm, as he delivered interesting stories about the band and their songs. Following the opening song Martin told a cheering crowd that. “In a few months time from now it’s going to be 30 years that the 3 of us have been together, and it all started in this little place called The Coach and Horses.”
The next signpost after that statement was The Bazaar, off of the 1995 Edges of Twilight album, which was followed by local veteran rock superstar from the Big Sugar days, Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe, joining the band on stage for a big surprise. Although Martin told us back in December one of their upcoming releases called “So Careless” may be a song they play as a surprise, it turned out they didn’t play it at all. Instead, bringing a splash of blues and harmonica action, Mr. Chill joined The Tea Party to perform an outstanding unreleased song called “Way Way Down!” In true Tea Party kick ass style the crowd was treated to this rockin’ tune with a bit of Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying mixed in and a catchy chorus in, “It’s My Breakdown, It’s My Shakedown, On The Way Way Down!”
Since the Tea Party formed they haven’t been afraid to go way down to dark places. As Jeff Martin told the audience, “30 years ago when we came out it was kind of like a renaissance as far as Canadian rock music was concerned because it wasn’t only us, all these incredible bands like the Tragically Hip, Our Lady Peace, Moist… the thing that separated the Tea Party from all those three bands was this band wasn’t afraid to go down to those very dark places. Thing is when you go down that far as an artist and you come back up for air and if you bring with you some love, some compassion, some understanding, well there’s a word for it and the ancient Greeks used to call that type of artist a Psychopomp.”
With that said the band went into a wicked performance of their song of the same name off the 1998 Transmission album. Jeff Burrows went crazy on the drums a couple of times, Jeff Martin on the guitar, and Stuart Chatwood hitting the keyboard. The “signposts” continued from Transmission with Fire In The Head (The Colosseum stage filled with red lighting), and Release (the bass shaking the entire Colosseum floor and seats). The crowd singing “I want you to be free, I want you to be free from me.”
Save Me off of the 1993 Splendor Solis album had the crowd pumped as Martin, in Jimmy Page style, produced some eerie sounds on the guitar using a violin bow (reinforcing the Tea Party comparison to Led Zeppelin). This was complemented by some more wicked drumming by Burrows. Again the crowd sang along.
The number one 1999 release Canadian Rock Alternative hit, Heaven Coming Down, off the Triptych album, was up next. Before performing the song Martin took a moment to acknowledge someone very special to the band, Tim Trombley, Director of Entertainment at Caesars Windsor and former EMI Records Canada Executive. Trombley “was there from the beginning, he actually signed us to EMI Records, spent the next 15 years putting up with me, we owe him such a debt of gratitude that can not be repaid.” With that the band went into an extended version of Heaven Coming Down (around 8 or 9 minutes long) with a thrilling melodic mix of U2’s With or Without You mixed in. This melody perhaps had the most audience members singing along, more than any of the songs performed during the concert.
The Tea Party brought Kelly Hoppe back on stage, again adding a bluesy flavour with his magical harmonica skills, as the band rolled into a partial hybrid cover of a Led Zeppelin/Willie Dixon favourite, Bring It On Home. Eventually it flowed into Black River. The latest release by The Tea Party, this song recently reached #2 on the Canadian Billboard Rock Music Chart, and opens with a wicked guitar riff. The performance got intense as Burrows bangged on the drums as Martin and Hoppe faced him during the song.
The crowd “lost all control” when the band rocked another chart topping hit (reaching #4) off the 1999 Transmission album, Temptation. Fans were up on their feet clapping to the beat, and shouting out Temptation. Towards the end of the song, the music stopped and Martin asked the crowd to stop clapping. The Colosseum became quiet and Martin asked, “Would you like some more?” The crowd screamed, cheered, and as the song wrapped up they continued shouting Temptation! Martin then thanked the audience for “a beautiful homecoming that’s been a long time coming.”
But that wasn’t the end of the concert, if it had been there surely would have been riot among the screaming, stomping, clapping fans. Eventually Martin returned to the stage, sat down and began an acoustic performance of Winter Solstice off their 1991 self titled, independently released debut album. This album is highly collectible with only 3,500 copies released. Chatwood and Burrows returned for the encore as Martin began strumming but before any lyrics were sang, the song transitioned into The Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon and then back to Winter Solstice. During this piece Burrows on drums was joined by Martin on bongos and the crowd clapped along. We’re not sure if Burrows lost his drum sticks or not but he could be seen hitting the symbols with his bare hands a few times.
Martin then asked the crowd, “Have you ever wondered what Canada’s most powerful rock band sounds like?” With that The Tea Party continued with Sister Awake off of Edges of Twilight. More wicked drumming, from an intense faced Burrows, bridged the tune into The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black, and then into David Bowie’s Heroes.
The Tea Party will take a five day break before heading back out for the final half of their Black River Tour. They’ll rock several cities in Western Canada and conclude with several U.S. shows, wrapping up in Los Angeles on May 18.
Drummer Jeff Burrows, a huge supporter of local non-profit organizations will have only 6 days to rest up before his 13th Annual 24 Hour Drum Marathon in Windsor, Ontario.
Upcoming Shows on the Colosseum Stage at Caesars Windsor include comedian Aziz Ansari (Apr. 25), country music superstar Brad Paisley (Apr. 27), rock band Kansas (May 5), and Canadian pop star Alessia Cara (May 15).
Article by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor
Photos by Dan Boshart
Dan Boshart is a talented photographer from Windsor, Ontario, who is looking forward to spending more time on concert photography when he retires from his full time job in the automotive industry. In addition to shooting bands, he has an interest in travel, architectural and street photography. Some of Dan’s photos can be viewed on Instagram and he can be followed on Twitter or his 27th Floor Photography Facebook Page.