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Live Review: The Tea Party, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

1 May 2017 | 2:38 pm | Rod Whitfield

"A transcendent experience that will stay with those who were fortunate enough to be there for a long, long time."

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Ever since Deep Purple released Concerto For Group And Orchestra way back in the late '60s, the soundscapes of heavy and orchestral music have gone together like a hand in a perfectly tailored glove. And this show adds another chapter to that marriage made in music heaven.

It is a show that promises so much: one of the all-time great progressive rock acts together with a world-renowned symphony orchestra in a room designed with perfect acoustics in mind, and to enhance the aural experience of the audience. Does it deliver on that promise? The answer is yes, it delivers. And then goes above and beyond.

From scintillating opener Temptation, right through to a very popular encore of Winter Solstice and Sister Awake, by way of a plethora of The Tea Party classics such as Transmission, Walking Wounded, Heaven Coming Down and the fabulous title track of their most recent album called The Ocean At The End (which, believe it or not, is just about the highlight of the first set), this show is a powerful two-hour-plus journey across the illustrious history of the legendary Canadian rock act. With seamless and majestic accompaniment from the wondrous Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO), who, as always, are in fine fettle.

Along the way, the very lucky audience in attendance gets a couple of appearances from the ethereal Canadian opera singer Christine Williams, whose stunning vocals soar to the very heavens; beautiful covers of Daniel Lanois' The Messenger and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (which would surely have to be one of the most covered songs in history?); digs at a luckless roadie and the hapless Donald Trump; references to the classic kid's cartoon The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show; a poignant dedication of the song Oceans to a recently passed friend of the band's and much, much more.

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Enigmatic and entertaining frontman Jeff Martin truly puts his all into Oceans, and the pain and emotion veritably drip from the stage. It is obviously still raw.

The Tea Party's live rock show alone is legendary. When you add the MSO and all of these other amazing elements, it becomes a transcendent experience that will stay with those who were fortunate enough to be there for a long, long time.