Father John Misty – Rough Trade NYC – February 12, 2015
Because his larger-than-life persona isn’t well suited for paraphrasing, it seems the only way to write about Father John Misty is in long form. And while it might be impossible, here’s an attempt: Father John Misty, real name Joshua Tillman, was raised in a strict ultra-Christian household in Maryland, left it behind for Seattle, worked menial jobs, wrote songs as J. Tillman, started drumming for Fleet Foxes, went to California and ate some mushrooms, had a revelation, moved to L.A., traded the name J. Tillman for Father John Misty, wrote a killer album, married a photographer who has a sweet Tumblr, bought a house in New Orleans, won over David Letterman, wrote another killer album, trolled the Internet with an intentionally shit-quality stream of it via a make-believe streaming service. And as tempting as it is to go into further detail about any of these things, we need to save some real estate here to talk about his performance last night at Rough Trade NYC.
Father John Misty knows how to perform. He’s the craftsman of tunes grandiose in theme, scope and sound, and it takes a grand performer to own them onstage. Father John Misty and company came out with musical guns blazing, performing “I Love You, Honeybear,” blowing through every single page in the Key to Great Rock Performances playbook, all within the first song: Standing on top of the bass drum, holding the microphone stand over his head, walking out into the audience, snaking his way back up onstage, twirling once around the microphone stand. It’s worth noting that Tillman’s a lanky six feet, which adds drama to his every move. Standing on the bass drum, he was eye level with the balcony, an imposing presence dominating the small venue.
“We have gathered here today in this place of commerce,” said Father John Misty. His performance hit just about every song he’s recorded, each featuring its own theatrics. For the bridge of “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” Tillman threw back his head like his own song had shot him, falling to his knees and hitting the floor. “Funtimes in Babylon” came with a gorgeous tinge of country, peppered with a meandering slide guitar. At some point, stage banter became a free-flowing Q&A session before Father John Misty walked out into the audience, hugging people one at a time during the set-ending “Holy Shit.” For the encore, the audience covered the canned laughter at the “punch lines” of “Bored in the U.S.A.” And Tillman sang, “I never liked the name Joshua, I got tired of J,” on the night’s final song, “Everyman Needs a Companion.” But as it turns out, no one is tiring of Father John Misty. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks