Father John Misty – Brooklyn Steel – May 11, 2017
Brooklyn Steel was shoulder to shoulder with people on Thursday night to see Father John Misty for the second of three straight-sold out shows in Brooklyn this week. His new album, Pure Comedy, is a lyrically deep concept record that has been picking up some well-earned praise for layered cultural commentary that takes sharp aim at sacred cows, innocent bystanders and everything in between. It’s a demanding and serious affair that eschews his usual self-deprecating humor for a set of somber ballads that set out to explain how the technological advancements we’ve made as humans is quickly leading to our downfall as a species. See? Comedy, right? Nevertheless, the room was filled with excitement as people packed in eagerly waiting for the Father’s sermon.
First up was NYC freak-folk mainstay and ex–Moldy Peaches frontman Adam Green, who recently directed the video for Misty’s new single, “Total Entertainment Forever,” and it’s truly something to behold. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. I won’t spoil it for you. Along with his three-piece band, Green played a set full of feel-good indie rock that found him high-fiving people in the front row and even fitting in a few lengthy crowd surfs that took him across the room. As he said his goodbyes, it was clear that he had won over everyone who caught his opening set.
Shortly after, the crowd exploded with cheers as Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, took the stage. Dedicating the lion’s share of his set to the new album, he shied away from his usual witty stage banter and let the songs do most of the talking. The new material translated to the stage fantastically as his nine-piece band, complete with a horn section and two-keyboardists, brought the dynamics and drama that make the arrangements so powerful on record. Ever the dynamite showman, Misty navigated the stage with ease as he threw in his Jim Morrison gyrations with a wink and a nudge all while pouring out his world-weary grievances through his tender croon. Misty’s voice sounded tremendous as it filled the room and was heartbreakingly beautiful when he would hit his high falsetto. As good as it was, when he reached back to some of the more upbeat material from his first two albums to close out the set, the crowd answered back singing along to every word.
When he returned for the encore, Father John Misty addressed the crowd for the first time, entering into a long and hilarious conversation with a girl in the front row. She yelled out for him to “Do you!” to which he replied, “Thanks, I needed that today” before going into his anthem about modern American dejection, “Bored in the USA.” During the final song, “Holy Shit,” the singer-songwriter pointed the microphone stand into the crowd to let the adoring fans belt out the wordless refrain before taking his final bows. By the end of the night, Misty’s message had landed and was somehow both distressing and life-affirming at the same time—all in a fantastic way, of course. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing