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You would be forgiven for thinking that Father John Misty’s headline set at Rock City last Sunday, the 15th of May, would be met with a crowd of angry, pitch-fork welding revellers after that interview on Radcliffe and Maconie’s BBC 6Music show last week. However, as I struggled to find a spot in the packed music hall, it was obvious that public devotion for Josh Tillman hasn’t dwindled even after the UK media backlash.

Tillman and his six-piece band were engulfed in an ethereal mist of green light as they began with a track from his debut album, “Everyman Needs a Companion”. The audience were left with a tableau of silhouettes as Father John Misty’s dulcet tones projected warmly around the venue, every audience member seemingly immersed in this mystical projection of vocals. Although there was no introduction from Father John Misty himself, his narrative-led, witty lyricism lead the audience through an invested account of love and heartbreak, without many breaks between songs to showcase his trademark cuts of cynical one-liners. The glistening crescendo of his almost two hour set came for me within the first five songs. “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”, from Father John Misty’s widely critically acclaimed second album, “I Love You Honeybear”, drenched the room in a soulful optimism, the passion exuding from the front man into the front row as he fell to his knees copious amounts of times, whilst a disco-ball mirrored and personified the song’s sparkling grandeur.


Image: Abby Gillardi under Creative Commons license.

It’s hard to think that a frontman with the over-exuding confidence (if somewhat arrogance) that Josh Tillman seeps from every pore, was stuck behind a drum kit like he had been with his previous stint as a member of indie folk band Fleet Foxes. He commands the stage in an early Jarvis Cocker-like manner, strutting around to the audience’s delight.

One of the more sombre tracks on his sophomore album, “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow”, developed into a more climatic, almost aggressive rendition when Tillman accounted technical difficulties and propelled his microphone stand to the ground, his annoyance being redirected into transforming the track into a delightful mass of energy, finishing with an erupted, “that’s right motherfucker!”

The most surprising aspect of Father John Misty’s performance was the artist’s ability to adapt and evolve his showmanship in order to depict his lyrics in such a believable and honest way. His vocal prowess was demonstrated exquisitely during the encore in a heartfelt rendition of the last song on ILYHB, “I Went To The Store One Day”, lit by a single spotlight. This angelic hymn cast a spell over the entire audience, with every person captured by each and every phrase. This poignant moment was of course quickly contrasted with a rousing rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, the pounding misplaced synth fuelling Tillman’s already chaotic transit around the stage.

Any act that retires from the stage to Drake’s quintessential anthem “Legend” gains points in my book, but as Tillman flung himself into the front row, trying to embrace as many members of the audience that he could, it was clear that the adoration pouring from the audience was completely and utterly requited.

Have you caught Father John Misty live?  Let us know in the comments!

images: Derek Key and Abby Gillardi under Creative Commons.
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