Sydney Morning Herald article

Martyn Jacques talks to Jackson Board of the Sydney Morning Herald.

July 24, 2009
It's all about shock tactics for the Tiger Lillies, writes Jackson Board.

To have audience members storm out in disgust during the middle of a show sounds like most performers' worst nightmare. But that's how the Tiger Lillies' Martyn Jacques likes it.

During the past 20 years, the Tiger Lillies, a three-piece band, have pushed the boundaries of stage performance further than most. They seem like the result of a twisted experiment to combine avant-garde, bohemian Berlin and the gritty, bizarre underworld of London in the form of a gypsy-troupe cabaret.

Jacques is the overtly devious, clown-like lead singer who trolls in piercing falsetto while his fingers dance frantically along an ornately decorated accordion. His companions, the talented Adrian Huge and Adrian Stout, wield a range of fittingly eccentric instruments, including whistles and musical saws, as the show revels in comic, confronting and mischievous tales of brothels, blasphemy and aberrant sexual behaviours.

After two decades of offending and delighting audiences, the Tiger Lillies are returning to Sydney for a one-night Opera House performance, which will revive some of the group's twisted classics from their successful and more "accessible" 1998 opera, Shockheaded Peter. However, there are no guarantees that audiences will get anything less provocative.

"If the audience irritates me, then I usually get more and more obscene," Jacques says. "But at the end of the night, I want them all to be happy and to have had a great time and they do generally, apart from the ones who have walked out.

"It's always funny when people are offended by what I do ? after all, I'm just an entertainer."

Jacques has come a long way from days as a "punch punk" in the seedy underworld of Soho, yet his songs still encapsulate that disturbed spirit.

How have the band survived without commercial support? Jacques says the band's cult following has thrived because of their "weird and wonderful audience" rather than the support of a record company.

"It's amazing - if you do something really good, then that's all you need," he says. "I'm 50 years old, so my contemporaries are Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet ? they're lucky if they're doing '80s package tours.

"It's a sign that even with all the hype and bullshit that goes on, if you're good enough, you can still get there eventually."


Saturday, 7pm, Sydney Opera House, 9250 7777, $35/$30.