The Tea Party and The Autumn Kings rolled on down the river to the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor for their highly anticipated hometown Black River Tour.
Windsor natives and fast rising rockers, The Autumn Kings, opened the show. Formed in 2015, the band’s success is a testament to their talent, persistence, and ability to navigate the music industry. The band opened with “Devil in Disguise” off their debut album Silver Screens. Just months after the song’s release, the Detroit Red Wings picked up on this powerful high energy rock anthem, playing it during home games. Since then several other NHL teams have been using the song in their stadiums.
After a fun and intense cover or “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” the band went into the catchy “Illusion” also off their debut album. Guitarist Jake Diab went crazy unleashing an arsenal of riffs on the audience. The young rocker along with his bandmates displayed a commanding stage presence with the ability to connect with their audience while exuding tons of energy. The audience, with encouragement from vocalist Joe Coccimiglio, began chanting “oh wa oh” when the band performed the first of several songs, in this case “Need Your Love,” off their latest album Electrified.
The band, thrilled to be playing in front of their hometown, took a moment to thank everyone who has helped them get where they are today. “It started right here in Windsor, in our hometown, we owe it all to you Windsor,” they told the crowd. Thanking everyone who has followed them from the time they were just a ‘baby band.’ Autumn Kings closed their set with “Want You To Stay” also off of Electrified. Throughout the song Diab shredded the guitar, Nick Predhomme went nuts on the drums, and always smiling Tibor Bognar blew everyone away on bass. Coccimiglio’s vocals were indeed impressive especially at the conclusion of the song as he belted out “I Want You To Stay!”
After a wait, The Tea Party stepped on stage to thunderous applause. 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 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 to perform an outstanding unreleased song called “Way Way Down!” In true Tea Party style, the crowd was treated to this rockin’ tune with a bit of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying” mixed in.
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.”
The number one 1999 release Canadian Rock Alternative hit, “Heaven Coming Down” 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” with a thrilling melodic mix of U2’s “With or Without You” mixed in.
The Tea Party brought Kelly Hoppe back on stage, again adding a bluesy flavor with his magical harmonica skills, as the band rolled into a partial hybrid cover of a Led Zeppelin/Willie Dixon favorite “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 banged on the drums as Martin and Hoppe faced him during the song.
The crowd lost it when the band rocked “Temptation.” Fans were up on their feet shouting and clapping to the beat. 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, eventually Martin returned to the stage, sat down and began an acoustic performance of “Winter Solstice” off their 1991 self titled debut album. 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.
Event Date: 18-APR-2019
Review by Eric Bonnici Photos by Brent Groh