The Tiger Lillies: Devil’s Fairground | Review |(Wilton’s Music Hall London) 22 May 2018

Off to see The Tiger Lillies again and this time as it happens a rather lovely venue that’s a real London hidden treasure.

So how to describe ‘The Tiger Lillies’?  Well unique fits the bill well, no body else does what they do to my knowledge.   Other good descriptions include: Brechtian, punk, Weimar Republic cabaret, junkie opera, theatrical, alternative cabaret, sinister, surreal, offensive and cult band!  Mix it all together and you’ve got the wonderful trio of ‘The Tiger Lillies’.

I currently have 7 of their LPs and as far as I can tell most of their songs are really stories dealing with the low life of town – prostitutes, pimps, drugs, squalor, death, sex, torture, murder, cynicism, gypsies, drunks, sadness, religion, hell, dark comedy, sin, vaudeville and underground culture.

Their core sound is accordion, double bass and drums and they hide their true selves behind their distinctive face paints.  Each tour, some different combination of the macabre.  Think Mexican day of the dead and you are pretty close.

They have always been a threesome, and currently comprise:

  • Martyn Jaques Vocals, Accordion, Piano, Guitar (since 1989)
  • Adrian Stout Double Bass, Saw, Theremin, Guitar (since 1995)
  • Jonas GollandDrums/percussion (since 2015)

Martyn, the leader and main song writer, sings falsetto very nicely and can shout “drugs” as well as any man.  Adrian, the cool one, hops about between strange instruments producing eerie sounds whilst Jonas, wild eyed behind his mask, tinkles away on the drums and assorted trinkets.

Adrian, if you are reading this please let me know where you buy you suits, they are bloody great!

Wilton’s Music Hall hosts a two-week residency with the group is performing their new album Devil’s Fairground plus assorted classics and audience favourites (as shouted out).

A full Wilton Music Hall was dimly lit and the small stage pretty much taken up with the bands plethora of instruments.  The backdrop was pretty not existent (which is strange as they are well known for their visuals), blank walls and huge red drape curtains.  Small blue and red spots in the background and white spots in the foreground aimed upwards at the band producing eerie dancing shadows across the ceiling.

The gig was in 2 sets approximately 90 mins with a 20 min interlude (this seems to be rather common now, or is it that both band and audience are getting older together and it’s not as easy as it once was!).  As usual, Martyn does not interact with the audience at all and we go from one song to another.  I’d have liked it if he had at least introduced some of the new songs and told a little about them e.g. ‘and here’s another song about drugs and hookers!!’.  The first set I’m assuming was the new LP ‘Devil’s Fairground’, which was being promoted.  The second set was some classics from their pretty huge back catalogue and then a few songs shouted in by the audience – one of the only times Martyn spoke “does anyone have any requests you’d like us to play”.  The only other time he spoke was to introduce the band!  I suppose he lets the music do the talking.  Some balls, fancy if they can’t remember how to play a request – but I suspect they only pick the ones they know.

The Tiger Lillies - Devils Fairground flyer front

Songs constantly swing between slow sad piano ballads to up tempo rowdy eastern European gypsy bedevilled tunes.  Me I prefer the shouty ones where the audience songs along “drugs, heroin, cocaine” and you can tap your feet.  The slow ones, good as they are, are better heard when you can listen properly to the lyrics – some of the voice mixing not being that great on the night.

On the night all are smartly dressed and wear hats throughout.  Martin dressed in black with a nice ruff and his ponytail bound and down to his arse.  Adrian in a great checked suit and black shirt and Jonas in shirt and waistcoat.  Faces all whited out with black in fills and I think Jonas was in fact wearing a Venetian mask.

Martin hops about between accordion, piano and the smallest guitar ever, I’d say 18” max.  Think guitar back to front with no body, just the headstock (bit at the end of the guitar where all of the strings end) plus a short neck with a few frets.  He still manages a good tune out of it mind.

The audience is as diverse as usual, there were even some normal looking folk there (tee hee), certainly not your average PC crowd!  Let’s offend and be damned!

Normally, I’d include a set list at this point but a few days later I’ve absolutely no idea of the songs played on the night.  Anyone help me out here?  Either way, it was a bloody good night out.  The band played brilliantly and the audience loved it.

The band legged it off stage at the end to get to the exit where the merchandise was. Thanks for the pics and signing the LP/CD chaps!

The Tiger Lillies are a law unto themselves – long may you reign chaps!!   For £22.50 I task anyone to find me a better night out in London!

Marko [25 May 2018]

Spear of Destiny live concert review [13 May 2018] 229 The Venue, London

I was kind of excited about this gig, new LP recently out (very good reviews), touring ‘Grapes of Wrath’ 35 years anniversary and at a really good venue.  Plus two support acts, the Crazy Pink Revolvers and Folk Grinder and all for £15 – astounding value¬!!

I last saw them in 1984 and ‘85 so it’s been quite a while and Kirk is now the only band member remaining (well it is his band after all) from those early post punk days.  Now if

Tontine - UK tour 2018
Kirk Brandon Spear of Destiny – [13 May 2018] 229 London
my memory serves me well their shows were always pretty raucous affairs and the die-hard fans know all the words and sing along drunkenly, the band play great and we all go home happy and elated.  As it was then, so it is now, nothing has changed much apart from we are all a touch older – greyer, balder or dyed.  Mind you that didn’t stop an excitable crowd having a bish-bash time in the mini mosh pit, all trying to keep their feet on the lager enriched skating ring of a floor.  The mosh got bigger as the gig progressed and I must admit that my mate and I were carried away with it all and dived in ourselves during the encores!  So much for growing old gracefully I hear you say?Spear of Destiny Set list - 13 May 2018 229 London

Kirk stated on Facebook that they were ‘gonna make a racket !!!’ at the 229 and I can assure you all that they most certainly did.  Right on time at 9:45 the band hit the stage.  Their 75 minute set consisted of mainly showcasing songs from their new LP Tontine (weird name so checked it out on that interweb thingy and it is apparently an investment plan for raising capital, devised in the 17th century – you live and learn) plus the Grapes of Wrath and a few anthemic classics.

Set List (click on link to view video on YouTube)

  1. Brighton – [Tontine, 2018]Spear of Destiny - Tontine 2018 UK tour
  2. The Preacher – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  3. Flying Scotsman – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  4. MK Ultra – [Tontine, 2018]
  5. Medievalists – [Tontine, 2018]
  6. Second Life – [Tontine, 2018]
  7. Roof of the World – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  8. The Murder of Love – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  9. African Proverb – [Tontine, 2018]
  10. Solution – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  11. Grapes of Wrath – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]
  12. Mr. Livingston I Presume – [Tontine, 2018]
  13. World Service – [World Service, 1985]
  14. Come Back – [World Service, 1985]


  1. The Wheel – [Grapes of Wrath, 1983]Spear of Destiny - Tontine @ 229 the venue , London [13 May 2018]
  2. King of Kings – [Dead Ronin, 2000]
  3. Liberator – [One Eyed Jacks, 1984]

I’ve not heard Tontine but based on the gig I’ll be purchasing a copy sometime soon.  ‘Brighton’, ‘MK Ultra’ and ‘African Proverb’ were instant hits for me.  It’s good to get reacquainted with Kirk’s music again.  He’s another one of many bands I like that really should have been much bigger.  Their 80’s heydays might be past them but they put on one hell of a show all backed up by damn good tunes and they have a loyal following.  In my opinion they are still a class act!

The current line-up consists of Kirk Brandon – guitar; Adrian Portas – guitar; Craig Adams – bass; Phil Martini – drums (looking like a refugee from Lords of the New Church); Steve Allen-Jones – keyboards.  This accomplished bunch of musos have played earned their stripes with plenty of other indie bands in their time and as such strolled through the set with professionalism, passion and enthusiasm.  Kirk and Adrian’s dual guitar show mixes single note sparseness with a sprawling soundscape to devastating effect.  Kirk kept the between song banter to a minimum but he did give us plenty of chances to go mental and sing-along on various catchy tribalesque tunes.

I rocked off back to the tube with the echoes of people singing ‘Come back, come back all is forgiven’ and ‘Liberate’.  All in all, a wonderful drink fuelled evening!  Bless you Kirk for still giving a toss!

The Support Acts

Folk Grinder

Great start to the night, two blokes (acoustic guitar and accordion) gave a great rendition of bawdy sailor days of the past.  A pair of salty seadogs evoking skull and crossbones symbolism – an enchanting mix of drunken revelry.  They dressed the part, the accordion player having more than a passing resemblance to Jean Paul Gaultier in looks and dress, whilst Koozie Johns (the main man) resembled the press-gang commander.

I’d never heard of them before but now having seen them they strike me as a mix of The Urban Voodoo Machine and Alestorm (symbolism/lyrics though not music).   I’m unsure of what they played but I managed to video a couple of songs which were pretty darn good – see the video links below:

Songs for a drunken ale house of yore with an interesting modern lyrical twist.  Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.  I found them very entertaining and will defo check them out again.

Crazy Pink Revolvers

They are basically Stan Stammers (who he – ed) 80’s band, now recently reformed.  So why not renew your acquaintance with Kirk and do some support gigs.  Some of the songs appeared to be good but alas whoever was on the mixing desk did a dog’s diner with the sound.  Their look reminds me of a bunch of Michigan grease monkeys from those auto shows on cable tv.

Now it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a band with 2 bassists, with Stan on a wonderful 5 string.  Overkill?  I’m not sure it helped the overall sound or contributed anything else to the music.  I obviously don’t know any of the songs, but I’m sure they will get better with more shows under their belts.

Marko [14 May 2018]