Tiger Lillies!

by wjw on November 9, 2008

When we were in Calgary, my agent took us to see the Tiger Lillies in concert. (Can I just say that I really like my agent? )

I knew vaguely about the band and their New York success with Shockheaded Peter, but I’d never actually heard them play. The concert was Halloween night, which was not inappropriate— plenty of devils and ghouls in the audience, and onstage as well.

The Tiger Lillies are a trio. Lead vocalist Martyn Jacques, a classically-trained counter-tenor, sings many of the songs in falsetto, wearing a bowler and whiteface while playing the accordion, piano, and banjolele. Adrian Stout plays double bass, theremin, and saw. (I believe this is the first time I’ve ever heard a theremin in concert.) And the drummer, Adrian Huge, plays a child’s trap set and is absolutely brilliant on it. I rarely see drummers that I could watch for hours, but he’s one of them.

Whereas Shockheaded Peter was about ghastly methods of doing away with children, and their other production The Mountains of Madness (with Alexander Hacke) was based on the Lovecraft novel, their current show is The Seven Deadly Sins, clearly inspired by the Brecht/Weil production of the same name that got the latter chased out of Hitler’s Germany.

The music is Brechtian cabaret meets the Sex Pistols. The subject matter deals with pimps, whores, masturbation, circus freaks, drugs, drink, and killing Jesus.

A sample lyric:

The rain falls down drop by drop
As you suck another cock

It must be admitted that their palette is rather limited, though they perform well within their chosen milieu. And I must also admit that, by the third crack whore song, I began to wonder if there was a story here that I wasn’t getting. (Perhaps the story is that Martyn Jaques, while studying music, lived for years above a brothel.)

I’d recommend the Tiger Lillies for anyone who thinks that Randy Newman, say, is too light-hearted.

I was trying to explain the show to Laura-Anne Gilman later that night, and I got a little carried away with the song about killing Jesus, so I was singing “bang bang bang bang bang bang banging in the nails!” in falsetto, and Laura-Anne stopped me dead.

“You must promise,” she said very seriously, “never to do that again.”

“Didn’t you like the falsetto?” I asked.

“The falsetto was okay,” she said, “it was the little dance you were doing that totally creeped me out.”

And here I didn’t even know I was dancing.

Cat Rambo November 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I love the Tiger Lilies! First encountered them in NYC in 1999, and then got to see Shockheaded Peter here in Seattle a few years ago. Next time we encounter each other at a con, will you do the little dance? 🙂

Laura Anne November 9, 2008 at 11:39 pm

It was a very creepy little hoppity-hopdance. And I don’t creep-out easily….

dubjay November 10, 2008 at 12:15 am

I’d be happy to do the dance for you, Cat, but Laura Anne made me promise not to . . .

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