The Tiger Lillies at Bloomsbury Theatre, London

Ah, they don?t make entertainment like that any more. But then, I don?t think they ever did - until The Tiger Lillies came along.

Sunday November 14 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

How?s this for incongruous. The Tiger Lillies have brought their
twisted, clockwork-toy-gone-wrong vaudeville to the brutally
lumpen 1970s bunker that is the Bloomsbury Theatre - a head-on
collision of art and architecture if ever there was one. But somehow,
when the band arrive on stage, the shades of a particularly unsavoury
19th century music hall gather about our heads and we?re instantly
transported to The Tiger Lillies? penny dreadful world. It?s a world of
unspeakable diseases and strange deaths, of aunties with unexpected
genitalia and merrymaking at crucifixions, tinkers and tailors, pimps
and sailors, where a man?s best friend is his sheep. It?s all set to
the clump and fizz and keen and twang of accordian, piano, double bass,
bowed saw, and the rattle of a drum kit that looks as if it was
designed by Rowland Emett. The Tiger Lillies, in short, are not your
average rock ?n? roll combo.

Frontman and songwriter Martin Jaques, a vaguely sinister master of
ceremonies in his weskit and spooky clown make-up, lets rip in a
cracked operatic wail as the band clatter into their songs of low rent
and low life. There are songs which have the audience rocking in the
aisles with laughter, and songs which strike a sudden chill and give
pause for thought.  It?s a tribute to the quality of the band?s
songwriting that they can go from mood to mood so seamlessly, with the
audience with them all the way.  Two examples must suffice. Let?s
take ?Your Suicides?, a catalogue of deaths postponed, as one: ?Your
Suicides/You do them with pride/but are you really sincere?/You say
some day you will succeed/But you?re ninety-three next year?. And ?The
Pimp Song?, a lament for a destructive relationship that just keeps on
spiralling down, but will never end: ?You knock her senseless/You hate
her guts...and she wants to be, she wants to be with you?. The Tiger
Lillies can run a cold finger up your spine, even as you?re still
chuckling at the jokes in the previous song.

The three band members all take their own personas for little jaunts
around the performance: Martin Jaques himself, magnificently
world-weary, regarding the world through jaundiced eyes and jaundiced
songs. The bassist, casting appraising glances around in his role as
The Sensible One (every band must have one). And the drummer, a madcap
favourite uncle, all toys and tricks and gimmicks, sitting in his
armchair for all the world as if he?s ensconced by the fire with a
wide-eyed nephew at his feet, waiting for the conjuring to begin.
During ?Banging In The Nails? - a very merry crucifixion song - he
attacks his kit in a frenzy with toy hammers, reducing it to scattered
components - and then has to play the next song while leaning down to
the floor in order to reach his dismembered drums. He climbs upon his
chair and swallows many gobstoppers, then plays a drum solo by spitting
them, in turn and bang on the beat, at the drums and cymbals below him.
He even contrives a big death scene, and finally slumps, inert, under a
sheet on the floor, thus leading Martin Jaques to deliver the immortal
payoff line: ?Well, ladies and gentlemen, I?m afraid that?s the end of
the show, because our drummer has died.?  Then, struck by a
thought, he brightens. ?Unless, of course, there are any drummers in
the house...??

Ah, they don?t make entertainment

like that any more. But then, I don?t think they ever did - until The

Tiger Lillies came along.

see all photos from the concert HERE