Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Gypsy Cabaret songs, accompanied by double bass, accordion, drums and a moog synthesiser.
The Tiger Lillies are cited as the inspiration for many cabaret acts – the painted white face is replicated in many shows across Edinburgh this year, as is the style of storytelling through song. However, the Tiger Lillies are the original and most popular, proven by the full house at the Pleasance on the first day of the festival.
I am surprised at their popularity though. For me the show was difficult to appreciate. Having not seen them before, but having thoroughly enjoyed productions by groups who have been influenced by them, I was ready to have a good time, but found myself restless and frustrated.
One of the biggest problems was that I wasn’t able to hear the words of the songs properly. The three man band consists of a lead singer/ accordionist, a percussionist and a double bass player. Strangely only the lead singer has a painted face, and he is the only member who sings. Alternating between falsetto and gravelly growl, at times it was frankly impossible to make out the lyrics. This seems a great shame, and rather fundamental for a group famed for their storytelling through music. Another problem I had was that all the songs sounded very similar. Without hearing the stories which differentiated them, each number seemed to remain very much on one level of delivery.
What the Tiger Lillies did do well however was play their instruments – they are incredibly gifted musicians and certainly seemed to entertain their audience of fans. Perhaps the people who knew the group well had the lyrics of the songs embedded in their minds – subtitles would certainly have caused me to engage more with the ‘terrible tales with terrible twists’ I had been led to expect.