Diabolical, blasphemous, grotesque and debauch are almost understated qualifiers when it comes to the Tiger Lillies. The London trio are also gifted and utterly glorious, and well deserving of the oft-repeated branding as "the foremost avant-garde cabaret band in the world."
We took in the Tiger Lillie's performance at UCLA's Royce Hall Saturday night, and while much of the audience turned out in Halloween costume, the band came as they are–which can be creepy enough any time of the year.
Martyn Jacques fuels any fears of the sinister clown with a crayon-colored kiss of life, an unnerving face to an angelic, dejected falsetto (never mind the menacing lyrics). Even without the makeup, Adrian Huge's manic percussion performance–which can include rhythmically spitting "pills" at his tiny drum set or banging iron pots suspended overhead–can feel comically dangerous. Handsome and mild mannered as Adrian Stout appeared stage left, the contra bassist held his own questionable streak against the other two as the hairs on his bass bow snapped under pressure, or as he conjured mesmerizing sounds from the theremin or a humble saw.
This latest tour is a 20th anniversary celebration for the Grammy-winning act, which tapped tunes from their opera "Shockheaded Peter." Both visually and musically, the Tiger Lillies are a contemporary bricolage of gypsy folk, Brechtian dramaturgy, British humor, East Bank cabaret and, unequivocally, ferociously nihilistic rock. The tales they tell in their songs are base, make that way-off base, and the fact that the audience can't help but laugh or giggle at some of the content is startling in itself. Social maladies are served blistering hot with joyous frivolity; subversive revolt with vampish fun. This is hardcore punk, hold the body slams against the stage rim.
(Thank you Michael Serwich for getting us there!)
Photos: Mark Holthusen/Tiger Lillies
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