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]

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