Concerts: September 2001

The Tiger Lillies

Venue: Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Date: 05 September 2001

Reviewer: Cheryl Rossi

After just a few delightfully shocking numbers, the artsy crowd was hooting with horror and glee. Singer Martyn Jacques had moved from a piano, to his accordion via a ukulele, and had sung: "I saw the piss running down your leg, / and I knew you were not well, / I saw the vomit come out of your mouth / and I knew you were in hell. / And I love you though you smell."

In addition to Jacques, the mournful crooner and madman, the London-based trio is comprised of contra bass player and straight man - except when he dons a skull mask pumped with blood - Adrian Stout, and clownish percussionist Adrian Huge, whose drum kit is festooned with squeaky toys and a rubber chicken. All three dress in Victorian style suits and hats.

Their ditties generally fall into two categories: irreverently depraved or elegantly grave. During the depraved, they sound like an eastern European version of the Pixies, with Jacques punctuating the songs with sharp "ha's" and savagely screeching "HE . . . RO . . ." during the romping Heroin and Cocaine. Jacques sings with an astonishing castrati voice, which renders his tragic tales exquisite.

Jacques' glinting eyes and arching brow sent a seductive shiver of fear down our spines. His pregnant pauses had us sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting for the next delicious falsetto atrocity. He sings of an older man who has picked up a young woman in a park: "He inserted his finger . . . in . . . her . . . glove."

Although they sing mirthfully about bestiality and murder, the Tiger Lillies are comforting. They sing jollily about the perverted thoughts that cross our minds, which we never speak of or act upon. Watching the Tiger Lillies feels like being a child reveling in gruesome stories and naughtiness, and provides us with cathartic release.

Jacques used to live above a strip joint in London's formerly seedy Soho, while training himself as an opera singer. He sold hash pipes on a street corner while dressed as a woman, and hobnobbed with the disenfranchised and marginalized in the local bars. Perhaps this is why he sings so passionately about girls being lured into the sex trade.

The Tiger Lillies were at their best on Wednesday night and their set was more jovial than their first Vancouver performance in February. The band has released eleven CDs on their own label, Misery Guts Music, and they were selling like mad at the end of the show.

To get a taste of the Tiger Lillies, check out their self-maintained website:

2001, Cheryl Rossi

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