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The Tiger Lillies (Manchester)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Over the course of twenty years - and an astonishing 30 plus albums - The Tiger Lillies have walked their own unique path. Whilst never mainstream, they have managed to attract a dazzling collection of celebrity fans: Marilyn Manson, Terry Gilliam, Simpson’s creator Matt Groening and Mark Almond have all rhapsodised over the Lillies’ dark, twisted music.

Almond is a good point of reference, as singer Martyn Jacques - made up like a gruesome circus clown - is similarly drawn to life’s underbelly; ‘Brechtian punk cabaret’ is Jacques’ own description but that’s only half the story. Possessed of a remarkable falsetto voice, he sings troubling songs about prostitution, rape, murder, infanticide and addiction. There’s little between-songs patter, and Jacques stays in sinister character throughout.

Lets not overlook the deft musical contributions of double bassist Adrian Stout and drummer Adrian Huge (a dead ringer for dead James Joyce): the latter’s backward tumble off his drum kit is the most theatrical thing I’ve seen this year (well, it’s only February).

A Tiger Lillies gig isn’t for the easily offended. Yes, they like to provoke but many of their songs are remarkably tender odes to lost love: "Sweet Suicide" is the equal of anything recorded by Nina Simone.

At the end of this sold out show, the band received a rapturous standing ovation. The Tiger Lillies are a truly unique phenomenon. They’re rumoured to be on the FBI’s ‘subversive bands’ list, by the way; there is no greater recommendation.

- Steve Timms


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