November 2005

Tiger Lillies
presented by Richard Marsella and Gary Topp
November 10, 2005Innis Town HallToronto
Like, Really Crazy
by Stanley Fefferman

If you don’t know what the Tiger Lillies sound like, think of Dame Edna as a criminal castrati singing anarchic Brechtian/Weill blues containing lyrics like:

“I’m a whore till I turn into manure…She’s a limbless schizophrenic and she’s friends with the Queen…My mummy’s in a mental home…She dines on last night’s vomit…looking for a little love…I stabbed John the Baptist in the back and after they buried him, I pissed on his grave, I pissed on his grave, I pissed on his grave.” Like that.

The outrageous British cabaret trio consists of Martyn Jacques (fallen angel-voiced, accordion playing front man and song writer), Adrian Stout (upright bass and toy sheep) and Adrian Huge (child’s drum kit and assorted plastic and wooden objects). If you heard them, you would likely recognize in their performance the aforementioned Brecht/Weill opera spirit, as well as English music hall, Circus, Gypsy and Bavarian folk, savage polkas and left-bank Parisian busker chansons. Turn left at Sickening Lane onto Funny Farm Street. Let go and have a laugh before you call the Jazz Police.

Underneath the veneer of paint and poses and putrid taste are impeccable musicianship, superior showmanship, and indelible melancholy that conjures tenderness. No wonder the Tiger Lillies have recorded with the Kronos Quartet.

The opening act was the Lollipop People, a Tom Waits-ish chamber circus ensemble of harp, bassoon, trombone, bass, cello, banjo, accordion, harpsichord, and fart machine. The thing they do is serious, if only because of all the heavy instruments they carry around, and crazy as it sounds, they sort of liberate you into craziness, if you go along with the music. They also ask you to behave like a classical audience and not to applaud when they rest between sections of their suite. Then they bring out Naked Marvin, the resident Gollum, who has been conducting from the sidelines, to do his little dance.

Let’s end on a serious note. There is a tradition in opera where the character played by a countertenor uses his shrill tones as a weapon to physically subdue a belligerent opponent who may be attacking with a sword. There is such a scene in the recent Canadian Opera Company production of Handel’s Rodelinda. The clear and piercing falsetto of Martyn Jacques is a voice that he has weaponized to correct an imbalance in our world—perhaps the lethal self-righteousness that seems to be directing the show these days.

Martyn Jacques

Naked Marvin
We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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