Jeff Martin Engulfs The Opera House


Jeff Martin achieved a great big sound with just guitar and voice

Jeff Martin achieved a great big sound with just guitar and voice

A great concert happens when the performer, the audience and the venue contribute equally to the experience.  That was the case last night (July 12th) when Jeff Martin kicked off his solo acoustic tour in Meaford.

Martin is a strong taste, like cardamom, with a touch of the oriental blended into his heavy rock.  While many may pass by uninterested those who like him like him in a big way.  That makes it difficult for an opening band, whose set is inevitably delaying the gratification of the fans who came to see the headliner.  It’s even more difficult when the band is outside their comfort zone.  That was the case with The Road Heavy.  Trimmed down from a five piece rock band to just two acoustic guitars and two voices, they had a challenge.  Singer Pat James admitted he was nervous, this being their first theatre show, and he was grateful that the stage lights made the audience invisible.  But the impediments disappeared with the first song and the trio carried off their set with a strength and passion that won over the audience from the start and built as it went along.

Pat James and Jules Cardoso powerfully present great songs

Pat James and Jules Cardoso powerfully present great songs

This band is built around two equally powerful vocalists, Pat James and Jules Cardoso, and a lead guitarist Ryan Blake whose licks complimented the voices.  Their original songs are made of catchy riffs and lyrics that reflect dangerous liaisons and loose living.  It was fitting that their one cover was “The Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers because that’s the nearest genre of music to their sound.  And it was impressive that they followed it with their latest single, “Words Don’t Mean A Thing”, a song that holds its own alongside anything that emanated from the Southern Rock bands of the 80’s.

Even winning over the audience completely, they knew that the people were really there to see The Tea Party’s frontman, Jeff Martin.

He did his entire set solo with acoustic guitar and a stomping foot for a bass drum.  But it was a great big sound.  When he took the stage he explained that he had just landed in Canada less than twenty-four hours ago from Australia, where he now lives, and it felt to him like there were a thousand people in the audience.  “And I’m going to play as if there is,” he added to a round of cheers and whistles.  And he did.

He made good use of the twelve string guitar right from the outset.  His first song began sounding like a sitar then morphed into a banjo before becoming heavy rock.  His stentorian voice boomed even when he was quiet and when he was loud the combination of reverb and delay bounced all over the hall engulfing the audience.  He stage managed the audience throughout with their willing acquiescence.  “Stand up!” he said.  And they did.  “Put your hands together!” he said.  And they did.  “Now sit down!” he said.  And they did.  When he sang “Save Me” a Tea Party favourite, he let the audience sing the chorus, creating that beautiful sound of a room full of unamplified voices.  Throughout his set he interspersed into the original songs quotes from Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Bob Dylan.  When he finished he waited a long time before returning for an encore until the audience was chanting “Jeff! Jeff!”.  And when he came back he did a mashup of several classic blues songs accompanied by slide guitar.  It was a perfect ending, bringing it all back home.

The next big concert at Meaford Hall will be the legendary Downchild Blues Band on July 21st.  Tickets are $50, available at the box office until they inevitably sell out.

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One Response to Jeff Martin Engulfs The Opera House

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