The Tiger Lillies - Bloomsbury Theatre, London
...."There was this old granddad dude sat onstage in an old granddad armchair, wearing a fez cap and playing a miniature drum kit." A review of the band in London this November
The Tiger Lillies - Bloomsbury Theatre, London
Words : Gracelette
Photos: Heike Schneider-Matzigkeit
Holy shit. That was the most fucked up, debauched, amoral shit I?ve
ever seen. Jesus Christ, I?m glowing now, I feel so fucking alive. Fuck
There was this old granddad dude sat onstage in an old granddad
armchair, wearing a fez cap and playing a miniature drum kit. Then, on
the other side of the stage, there was a dude playing an elongated
double bass/cello THING. And in the middle was this dude wearing a
bowler hat with a white greasepaint face and the most beautiful
accordion I have ever seen. It was a decadent accordion, green like the
eyes of a Tamara de Lempicka heroine, with sparkly diamante bits
chucked in for good measure.
And, in a better falsetto than Klaus Nomi, the dude in the bowler hat
was singing about how he likes to choke little boys and girls and show
them his porn collection. He was singing about Auntie Mabel, who was a
whore with a plastic leg and a body part that rhymed with ?chick?. He
was singing heartbreaking end of the night, end of the party, smoke
rising lonely songs that only clowns are allowed to sing. He was
singing happy prancy little songs about Masturbating Jimmy and his pint
and a half of cum, strumming merrily on a ukulele the colour of dark
blue night before the dawn.
There was a jubilantly cheeky song about being the one who nailed
Christ to the cross. The chorus, which went ?bang the nails in! bang
the nails in!?, practically demanded audience participation. With
perfect dramatic timing, the drummer put a tambourine upon his head
while the singer went ?you see that crown of thorns upon his head? Well
THAT was MY idea!? and then back into the chorus, which culminated in
the drummer taking two pink and yellow plastic mallets to his drum kit,
bashing in the nails, or the mallets, till the kit was mashed into the
Midway through set, the granddad drummer in the fez cap overdosed on
ping pong balls, climbed on top of his armchair and did a drum solo by
spitting out the ping pong balls onto the miniature drum kit below.
But, in the end, he committed suicide by sawing through the leg of the
chair on which he was sitting.
?I?m terribly sorry but that?s the end of the show because our
drummer?s died. Unless there are any drummers in the audience? No?
But then he was resurrected as a literary pig who read to all the other pigs in heaven so that was alright, then.
The Tiger Lillies take the musical arrangements and forbidden subtext
of Sixties radio sketch show, Round The Horne, and mesh them together
with everything that was dark and about to crash in Thirties Berlin.
Pervy old men, armed with ice cream and porn, rub lyrical shoulders
with tattooed ladies, ink hiding their bruises, being pimped at the
freak show. Vintage STDs like gonorrhoea star in their own songs. As
the Lillies sang about the grotesque corpulence of having to be alive,
I imagined old queens in tear-streaked makeup, the need for artificial
brightness at any cost before antibiotics and antiseptic did away with
smallpox and syphilis. I imagined the rapid withering decay of Klaus
Nomi and the need to shine extra bright when the night is so damn
The dude sang ?every ego will be crushed, every empire turned to dust?
while throwing Heil Hitler salutes and it just made you realise how
close in the past that shit really was. The last song was about
stabbing the disciples and pissing upon their graves. Stabbing John the
Baptist, then pissing upon his grave. Went up to heaven and stabbed St
Peter as he was forgiving his sins, then pissed upon his grave. And the
chorus was just ?piss piss piss piss, piss piss piss piss, pissed upon
his grave!? He kills God and pisses upon his grave and then he goes all
the way down to hell and kills Satan and pisses upon his grave. Fuck
me. That was the darkest shit I?ve ever seen in my life and his
contorted falsetto scream was something else.
This is grown-up music, absolutely grown-up music, and I felt so very
young, sitting at the top of the dress circle, kneeling on the floor
and peering through the railings the way I used to peer through the
banisters when I was small, trying to eavesdrop on the grown-ups below.
It reminded me also of sitting in the gods at the Royal Albert Hall
proms when I was at school, because that was the warmest, safest,
cheapest place for all my friends to congregate at the end of the day.
We turned the grand old theatre into our makeshift living room and
conducted sleepovers, giving each other makeovers and reading magazines
while all this crazy classical music played below.
One pathos-heavy song sounded like my mother singing ?Feed The Birds?
or ?White Cliffs Of Dover? in that ?ghost in the corridor? soprano
voice of hers, which I?ve not heard for years, till it brought tears to
In fact, as I peeped through the railings, holding onto them tight and
spying on all the big people, I regressed to a point of scatological
childhood where you?d ask if it was OK to eat your brother?s poo
because nobody had told you any better. A place where you knew, also,
that when your mum covered your ears, it was because there were adult,
forbidden things happening.
I felt like I was on the edge of two worlds where no morality had yet
been instilled and also where every morality had been instilled and
someone on the other side? someone was making jokes, the punchlines of
which I ?wasn?t old enough to know? and it felt good to feel so
innocent and so dirty all at once. It felt good to feel so free to be
absurd because these guys were so much further across the line.
I thought of composing little ditties about spending my last birthday
in a flat down Euston way, where a stripper cooked me breakfast and
tried to get me laid with Turkish porn and miniature vibrators. I
thought about the fucking craziness of where your life can lead when
you divulge yourself of ego and begin to see it as a huge joke with
punchlines to be made and cymbals to be crashed and accordions to be
stopped and started and drawn out into longer punchlines.
They sang a song about a yellow angel. Suddenly here were
life-threatening puddles of chilly, cholera-infested water. Here was
consumption and despoiled maidenhoods in the Folies-Berg?re. Here
onstage were three men conjuring the bright and gaudy colours you?d
have to make to make to keep yourself going when you?d been reduced to
a mad cow with no teeth sitting with your fanny in the dirty puddle,
laughing and flashing your bright green drawers. And coming out of a
past filled with influenza and polio and smallpox, here was a band who
cared enough to dress up and lie to you.
They even had an interval, wherein a dude stood at the front by the
stage with a tray of Loseley ice cream! I felt old and small and taken
out of myself with wonder. And if it had left me feeling like this was
something to be picked up and set aside at the end of the performance
then maybe I?d be writing it off as something that?s nice enough for a
weekend fling. But this went so much further. Fuck, this made me glad I
dressed ritually and for theatre in matching pearl bracelets, wine red
velvet dress with pearls and sequin flowers threading down one side,
big wine red leather boots and fishnet hold-ups. The sensation of my
fleshy thighs spilling over the tops of my hold-ups as I knelt, knees
slightly apart, at the top of the auditorium? That was as much as part
of the performance and my experience of it as the inflatable sheep or
the giant saw because the Tiger Lillies opened up countless spaces for
theatre and absurdity and punchlines and performance devoid of the
post-millennial ego in my own life.
And, when they finished singing about pissing all over the graves of
everything sacred and profane, they stepped off the front of the stage
and walked with their audience out into the foyer.
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SOUNDS LIKE MY KINDA BAND!
Posted on Thursday, December 23rd, by Lonnie the Pony