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AAA Music | 2 December 2020

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The Tiger Lillies – Live @ London Wonderground

| On 19, May 2014

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Saturday 17th May, London

“Grammy nominated”, “godfather of alternative cabaret”, “post punk pioneers” – such a mess of rumbling speeches for something, literally, intangible, ineffable indefinable…id est The Tiger Lillies! “Lost in time, lost in space and meaning” – the annual London gig series of the cult British trio, as well-established habit, defies every definition and exceeds every expectation.

Shows that seem to live for themselves; every night is a one-off and every night goes on off the cut, captivating and bowling over. The bewitched cauldron, from where the band draws fully, is filled by an enchanted elixir. A poisoned potion consisting of three ladles brimming with theatricality, some drops of cabaret, a slice of acting, a stinger of freakish unpredictability and wingers of artistry. All soaking up in a steaming stock of tunes and ditties.

What The Tiger Lillies present is a show which abstracts itself from the recent present of the band. No rhymes from the Ancient Mariner, no Hamlet transposition or the tragic ballads of Lulu, but a set list which jumps back in time by nearly 20 years; picking up plenty from the band’s history or even its prehistory and preferring, if it’s allowed to say, old and memorable classics.

Martyn Jacques and his artistic partners musically wonder and wander around the London Wonderground main tent with a hilarious, bitter, nostalgic, slapstick and profane show. They start off with the “romantic” ‘Flies’ and they stroll about, for almost two hours, with ten, 15 and 20 years old deathless and timeless shoo-ins.

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The concert has the air of a live greatest hits, with the band travelling through a road that leads to their older works like Shockheaded Peter, Farmyard Filth, The Brothel of the Cemetery and Ad Nauseam. Goliardic masterpieces like ‘Auntie Mabel‘ pop up, followed by irreverent “psalms” as ‘Banging in the Nails‘, with particular and indulged emphasis on every bang. Then, doomed litanies like ‘Jesus‘ or ‘Crack of Doom‘, always spaced out by more playful (‘Bully Boys‘) and whimsical (‘Heroin and Cocaine‘) moments, until honoured covers like Johnny Cash’s ‘25 Minutes‘ and mellow serenades, like ‘Teardrop’, give the “so long” and “all the best” to the spectators.

All along, the evening seems to be in the presence of a bittersweet musical box: every time you open the lid a new wondrous trick is ready to agog you. And the audience, who overly cram the circus-like marquee of the Wonderground, enjoy every single wizardry performed by the artful trio.

Every grimace, smirk, grim and sneer which appear on Martyn Jacques’ whirling face, every cry, croaks, screams and howls which his voice articulates…

Every abstruse gimmick and fiendish stratagem put into action by the musical dexterity of Adrian Stout and Mike Pickering…

Every single act of the performance is greeted with open-mouthed expressions by the public.

It is a real wonderland, somewhat decadent, somewhat maudit and carnival-esque.

But, for sure, it is an embodiment of art; The Tiger Lillies’ one.

Whether that be music, theatre, cabaret, dance, opera, or……….

Marco Canepari