Gloriously grotesque as always

By Bradley Storer

It was appropriately a cold night in St Kilda when the diabolical godfathers of British alternative cabaret, The Tiger Lillies, took to the stage at Memo Music Hall. After nearly thirty years of performing, their confronting and controversial compositions have made them a beloved cult-favourite worldwide. With an air of weary but playful detachment, the trio assaulted the audience with their particular style of performance, turning the venue into something between a demonic carnival and a filthy Weimar-era den of inequity. From their first steps onstage the audience was eating out of their hands, whooping and hollering for more.

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Lead singer Martyn Jacques was creepily charismatic, his eerie but beautiful countertenor voice standing in stark contrast to his frightening clown makeup and the chilling lyrics of their original compositions. His deadpan expression and facial gesticulations were used to hilarious effect in such songs as ‘Terrible’, recounting the weekly schedule of a serial murderer/arsonist/rapist, and ‘Sailor’, a blow-by-blow recounting of an encounter with an un-enthused sex worker. Fellow founding member Adrian Stout provided exemplary work on the contrabass, theremin and even the musical saw in addition to backing vocals, with Jonas Golland’s subtle drumwork adding an extra layer of drama to every song.

The band has a massive repertoire from their twenty-eight year career to choose from, so picking a selection for performance must be an unenviable task! Highlights of this night included the rollicking ‘Aunty Mabel’, a genderbending tale of a cross-dressing amputee, as well as the emotive ‘Beat Me’, where Jacques’ beautiful piano-playing was combined with understated accompaniment from Stout and Golland to heartbreaking effect. At the end of the night, the performers called for requests from the audience who bombarded them with enthusiastic replies – picked from the multitude was the gut-bursting paean to alcoholism ‘Another Glass of Wine’, the ‘sure to offend everyone religious’ number ‘Banging in the Nails’, the apocalyptic classic ‘Crack of Doom’, before the night ended with, aptly enough, the fatalistic and eventually fatal countdown of ‘Twenty Five Minutes’. From the way the audience stood and cheered for the trio as they took their final bows, they would have gladly sat there all night as the boys played their entire back catalogue!

An unmissable night of dark and malevolent entertainment from masters of their craft, demonstrating clearly why they’ve continued to endure for nearly three decades!

The Very Worst of The Tiger Lillies was performed on 18th June, 2017 at MEMO Music Hall.