As much as Josh Tillman took a roundabout way to get there, he fits nicely in the role of rock and roll frontman. Formerly the drummer for indie-folk sensations Fleet Foxes and a solo artist before that, Tillman brought his Father John Misty persona / band to Union Transfer last night for an electrifying, hour-long set, performing almost all of his debut LP Fear Fun, as well two well-received covers.
An immediate observation as Tillman and his four-piece backing band stepped to the stage – he had no instruments with him, short of a tambourine. His job tonight was to sing, to dance, to be the charismatic guy in the front of the pack. So he opened the set strutting and swaying to album opener “Fun Times in Babylon,” closed it twisting and writhing Iggy Pop / Michael Stipe style to the single “Holllywood Forever Cemetry SIngs.” Things got a bit dramatic on “Nancy from Now On,” when Tillman brought his microphone stand cracking down on his head during the lyric “I’ll be breaking things like Howard Hughes.” Later he cracked jokes about Instagram and smart phones (“buy minerals from drug lords, do whatever it takes to get that device in my hand”), and remarked that it was a rimshot-heavy evening. But then there was the performance – occasionally ostentatious, but always expressive and impressive.
On “Well You Can Do It Without Me,” Tillman took the reserved So-Cal psych pop of the album rendition and drew it out, crooner-style, for the last refrain. During the eco-topical “Now I’m Learning To Love The War,” he switched out lyrics to make it more specifically about the working musician’s carbon footprint (“I’ll leave behind merch that won’t decompose”). And with the main set hitting on nearly every track on Fear Fun – only the underwhelming “O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me” was not performed – the band hit two quick covers for an encore. A suave and stripped-down rendition of the jazz standard (first popularized by Fred Astaire) “Nevertheless I’m In Love With You” was followed by a rollicking take on Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again” that left me hoping that Tillman / Misty remains in the spotlight for a while longer.
Fun Times in Babylon
Only Son of the Ladiesman
Nancy From Now On
I’m Writing A Novel
Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2
This Is Sally Hatchet
Well, You Can Do It Without Me [video]
Now I’m Learning To Love The War
Tee Pees 1-12
Every Man Needs A Companion
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings [video]
Nevertheless I’m In Love with You (Fred Astaire cover)
On the Road Again (Canned Heat cover) [video]