22 May 2018 (gig)
23 May 2018
Maybe by coincidence or by design, but everything I have seen at Wilton’s Music Hall over recent years has always been especially suited to the distinctive and beautifully restored surrounds of the last surviving music hall of its kind. And for all the times that I have had the privilege of seeing The Tiger Lillies perform, certainly I couldn’t think of another venue that came closer to being a perfect match for their unique musical experience. It was their first time performing here too, a run of 12 nights where they played material from another new album.
The Tiger Lillies are Martyn Jacques, Adrian Stout and currently on percussion, Jonas Golland. Formed by Jacques in the early nineties, their music has been likened to a combination of vaudeville, pre-war Berlin cabaret, gypsy and circus music, with influences cited as Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Almost 30 years making music, and they remain as prolific as ever, with over 30 studio albums and an Olivier award winning musical to their name. As risqué, raucous, crude and so very, very darkly humorous as some of their songs may be, they can be as equally poignant, beautiful and utterly heart breaking as they explore the twisted, broken and bleak side of life’s underbelly.
They are a talented bunch and their songs are crafted with perfect nuance. Jacque’s compliments his castrato-like falsetto with his skills on a strikingly beautiful, marbled emerald-green accordion, along with piano and ukulele. Stout plays upright bass, musical saw and Theremin, Golland drums and percussion; each of them in character, suited and made-up like a trio of worryingly disturbed trick-or-treaters that you really wouldn’t want to open your door to.
Tonight’s show was more gig than theatrical performance as they worked through a set of songs from yet another collection of new music. Similar themes were revisited: prostitution, death and drugs are common place in The Tiger Lillies’ world. There are also songs that suggest a more political kick towards highlighting the displaced and ignored - another common theme, but a pertinent one considering the times we live in. With such subject matter they strike an affecting contrast when in one moment they can raise an eyebrow or two, only to then draw you in, convict and break your heart. Tonight’s set included a few moments that particularly stood out, showcasing some beautifully crafted and exquisitely proficient song writing.
An encore followed with a few more familiar tunes from their back catalogue that included Bully Boys and Crack of Doom, and there was also a sing-along to honour Jacques fifty-something ‘happy’ birthday that was actually that very day. What a fitting way to celebrate it too.