Father John Misty April-Fooled the Audience at Union Transfer Last Night
Striding on stage as a lurid neon script spelling out ‘No Photography’ flickers to life, Father John Misty seizes his microphone like a starving man after the last loaf of bread on earth. Everything about him is magnetized, engaged; he is aflame singing the opening and title track of his most recent album, I Love You, Honey Bear, swinging the microphone stand.
At the end of the song the front row, all male, all under 25, clap deliriously and snap photos. Thanking the audience for a great night and bidding us safe return home, Father John and his band leave the stage. The same techs who set up the guitars and tested all of the mics return, unplugging gear and ripping up a set list from the stage, handing it to a kid in the front row.
- I Love You, Honey Bear
April Fool complete, the band return to the stage and attack.
Father John is musician Josh Tillman, a songwriter whose cult has deepened with the release of I Love You, Honey Bear in February 2015, the second album he’s created as Father John Misty. Though he may seem like an overnight success, Tillman released eight albums under the name J. Tillman and was a member of the band Saxon Shore before joining the Fleet Foxes as drummer in 2008, touring extensively with them until January 2012.
“We are going to move quickly, if you don’t mind … get a little intimate.” With his face partially shaded by a high-crowned brimmed black hat, Father John uses every prop at his disposal to seduce the room, swiveling snake-hipped through the wry ‘love songs’ of his recent repertoire, many evoking the immersive, insane experience of falling in love – references to meeting and marrying his wife, Emma, in a parking lot in California.
A huge cheer from the packed, sold-out room for the first bars of “Only Son of the Ladiesman,” a track from Father John Misty’s “first album,” Fear Fun. A born songwriter who has already been called a “modern-day Dylan” more than once, Father John’s lyrics dance on a tightrope of the bleak reality of all relationships, as in “The Ideal Husband” (Every woman that I’ve slept with / Every friendship I’ve neglected / Didn’t call when grandma died.)
Though Father John never stops singing about himself, you can just relate. A good humor permeates his being, he can’t stop making fun of himself, of us, of the clichéd idea of writing “love songs.”
Sometimes the songs can bleed into one another – they all are pretty much about sex, tripping on hallucinogenic drugs of different sorts, and the creepy knowledge that no matter how you feel right now, love is an elusive and slippery creature who may turn on you tomorrow – there is no opportunity to be bored at this show.
“I’m Writing a Novel” (I ran down the road, pants down to my knees / Screaming please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me!)
Tillman never stops turning it on: dancing to the drum riser, falling to his knees at the edge of the stage, removing his concealing hat at the right moment so we can all drink in his lissome beauty and abundant hair! It’s like Mick Jagger but a little insecure, he doesn’t just want us to love him, he is asking nervously, we must love him? And we do, we do.
Setlist April 1, 2015, Union Transfer, Philadelphia
- I Love You, Honey Bear (opener)
- Strange Encounter
- True Affection
- Only Son of the Ladiesman
- When You’re Smiling and Astride Me
- The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment
- I’m Writing A Novel
- Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2
- Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)
- Nancy From Now On
- Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
- This is Sally Hatchet
- The Ideal Husband
- Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
- Funtimes in Babylon
- Now I’m Learning to Love the War
- Holy Shit
- Encore 2
- Bored in the USA
- I’m Your Man (Leonard Cohen Cover)
- Everyman Needs a Companion