Tiger Lillies and Laurie Anderson to perform at St. Annís Warehouse
Paulanne Simmons, The Brooklyn Paper
November 18, 2002
St. Ann’s Warehouse, one of New York City’s hottest performance venues, welcomes two of the world’s hottest performing artists this November: international cult phenomenon Tiger Lillies, performing their "Death and the Bible" concert, and singer-songwriter-filmmaker Laurie Anderson and her band with their "Live at the Warehouse" concert.
Tiger Lillies is a three-piece band fronted by singer-accordionist Martyn Jacques, accompanied by drummer Adrian Huge and double bass player Adrian Stout.
GO Brooklyn spoke by phone with Jacques, who was recording in a Paris suburb.
"We’re always trying to write stuff that moves us and is different than before," said Jacques. "We’ve recorded about 13 albums, and we have new ones coming out. You always have to try for something different."
Tiger Lillies CDs include "Two Penny Opera," "Circus Songs," "Shockheaded Peter," a musical theater piece based on Heinrich Hoffmann’s "Struwwelpeter" children’s stories and most recently, "Gorey End," featuring Tiger Lillies songs and accompaniment by the Kronos Quartet.
Jacques, who writes songs with savage, blasphemous lyrics that he sings in a castrato voice, says he didn’t really discover his style until he was almost 30.
"I taught myself how to sing. I wanted to evolve a style of music that is hard to classify It took me a long time," he said.
At 36, he mixed that sound with the accordion.
"Before that I played piano, guitars and other instruments. I was experimenting. I just couldn’t come up with a style that was interesting and original. I was getting quite desperate. Then everything jelled instantaneously. Then I founded the band and it took off. That was 13 years ago."
Jacques did much of that experimenting while living over a SoHo strip joint.
"The environment does stroke into you. I became influenced by the people and the environment in which I lived," said Jacques. "I absorbed it into my life and lyrics. I got to know the twilight world of prostitutes, pimps and drug addicts. I was living with them so that’s what became my life."
As for his music, Jacques calls it a "huge melting pot" of different influences - Edith Piaf, English dance hall music, gypsy music, Russian music, blues, opera and classical.
"Hopefully, you come out with something unique and original," he said.
Anderson gets personal
Laurie Anderson has explored so many different media that her most notable feature may be her ability to elude all attempts at classification.
Her first album was "Big Science"; subsequent releases include "Mister Heartbreak," "United States Live," "Strange Angels," "Bright Red," and the soundtrack to her feature film "Home of the Brave." After a seven-year hiatus, she released "Life on a String" in May 2001, followed by "Live in New York" last May.
Anderson’s shows range from simple spoken word to elaborate multimedia events such as "Songs and Stories from Moby Dick," which opened the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave festival in 1999. Her visual work has been represented in major museums in the United States and Europe as well as in the book "Laurie Anderson" by RoseLee Goldberg (Abrams, 2000). And she has contributed music to films by Wim Wenders and Jonathan Demme, as well as dance pieces by Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown and Molissa Fenley.
"My passport says artist," she told GO Brooklyn.
If a theme runs through her work, it would be the narrative story.
"It’s always the basis, whether it’s a movie or a performance," she said.
At St. Ann’s this modern day balladeer will be working with the same band with whom she toured last year - bassist Skuli Sverrisson, keyboardist Peter Scherer and percussionist Ben Wittman.
"They’re wonderful musicians," said Anderson. "I love that there could be more texture than I ever could do by myself. It’s exciting. It opens doors to other people’s ideas. When you work alone in your studio you get lonely."
Anderson said her performance at St. Ann’s will be, like her solo tour "Happiness," about personal stories.
"I’ll see if it works with a band," she said.
In addition to seeing how "some very narrative stories work with a band," Anderson said she plans to do "lots of improvising older songs and rearrangements."
From the outrageous to the intimate, November promises to be an interesting month at St. Ann’s Warehouse.