JEFF MARTIN @ Rosemount Hotel gets 8/10

Jeff Martin @ Rosemount Hotel
w/ Lincoln MacKinnon, Ullah Annert
Thursday, March 25, 2021


It’s been a while since Jeff Martin or The Tea Party were in town, but you know he’s always coming back, such is his love for the place. “I missed you,” he said sincerely, a couple songs into his set. And you also know, whether performing solo or with a band, Jeff Martin will put on a show.

Martin’s love affair with Australia goes back 25 odd years, and he’s been visiting ever since. Lucky for us, he’s now based in Byron Bay, where he lives with his Australian wife and publicist Melissa Barrett-Martin, and runs his own studio, Riverhouse. After several postponed dates, Martin finally made it west, for an intimate solo tour in support of his new EP, Cinnamon Rose, which is a great summary of all aspects and genres of his music, covering a lot in its six tracks; from blues, to ballads, and of course eastern sounds. The man seems in good form.

It was a comfortably full Rosie from early on, in lounge mode, with plenty of stools and tables, with that awkward gap at the front, beckoning the brave forward, as a couple of local acts warmed things up.

Ullah Annert was on early, the young girl charming the room with her sweet, gentle voice, nifty acoustic fingerpicking and indie, folky sounds. A small, silent, intimate venue would suit her more, as at this stage of the evening the crowd tended to drown out the harmonies.

Lincoln MacKinnon

Lincoln MacKinnon was up next to raise things up another notch. His impassioned rockin’ and rootsy tunes grabbed the crowd’s attention, backed with a second guitar, and later with the addition of some smooth sax, which really lifted the drama of the tunes. Near the end of their set, he dedicated a sombre tune to his uncle, who drowned recently. It was a touching moment as the gentle song built to a soaring, emotional climax.

The stage was all set for the main event, when a woman walked out. She introduced herself as Mrs Martin, and said she’d been sent to introduce her husband, for the first time. Doing a fine job, she adoringly called onstage “the most beautiful, handsome genius,” admitting he told her to say as much.

Jeff Martin

Starting things off in typically eccentric style Jeff Martin came out with his old hurdy-gurdy, for an exotic intro teaser, winding the strange, droning wooden contraption. As is his style, Martin looked the part of a mystical shaman in a headscarf, top knot, and white jacket.

Martin then brought out the 12-string acoustic for Coming Home from The Tea Party’s breakthrough album, The Edges Of Twilight. This really roused the crowd who were excited to hear he was going to play a bit of everything. The mood in the room really lifted as his voice kicked in for the chorus. Live, the power and rich majesty of Martin’s baritone is always something to behold, and his virtuoso playing even more so. He segued briefly into a refrain from L.A. Woman by his spirit animal Jim Morrison’s little band, The Doors.

“It’s great to be back,” Martin said. “There a reason I’m here, apart from that I missed you… This new EP has been a “labour of love” during challenging times.” But as he pointed out, “If you’re gonna be stuck in a country… What a country to be stuck in!”

He moved on to the first song from the new release, a swampy, sliding, southern blues number, steeped in voodoo – Set In Stone – then dropped in the beat with his foot pedal trigger.

The audience enjoyed a nice mix of old and new, and the classic Tea Party tracks got big cheers when they made an appearance. “Let’s go back to Istanbul” introduced The Bazaar, drawing some of Martin’s dedicated disciples forward, enticing them to sway in mysterious ways.

Martin then followed with a touching tribute. An emotional rendition of Requiem from 2001’s The Interzone Mantras, dedicated to Michael Gudinski. Martin praised Gudinski for being instrumental in breaking The Tea Party in Australia, which became The Tea Party’s biggest market outside of Canada, and a home away from home. “So you say life is bittersweet. Know the things you miss.” Never did the song seem more suited, as Jeff belted out one of the best solo performances he’s played. It was a fitting tribute.

Jeff Martin

There was of course the trademark Martin medley. He’s become fond of mashing up his own material, along with some choice covers in the mix. The Tea Party’s epic Sister Awake, merged into the intricate picking instrumental of Winter Solstice from their 1993 debut, Splendor Solis, and then segued into his oft played cover of another highly talented Jeff (Buckley), with Hallelujah.

A couple of other new tracks sounded good in the mix – the Latin flavours of Havana, with its Bowie-referencing chorus refrain “Let’s dance!” and a song that he co-wrote in the kitchen with his “pocket rocket” wife, Only Love Can Take You There. Martin then enticed a singalong of the backing melody, with the crowd doing a mostly great job, apart from one slightly tone deaf audience member. “Maybe not you,” Martin jibed. It’s an earnest love song that would sound fairly trite and soppy in someone else’s hands, but Martin has enough talent and gravitas to pull it off.

Finishing with a bluesy riffing medley that touched on some classic standards and some Led Zep, Martin bid us good night with some welcome news, “Thank you very much, I’ll see you next year with The Tea Party.” He left the stage to an eruption of cheers. A low key gig, though the first with such international star quality in quite some time, Jeff Martin left the audience at The Rosemount hungry for more international tours.


Photos by Alfred Gorman


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