All photos by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Father John Misty, as J Tillman calls himself, is not a person. He’s a persona, a mask, an act – and I love it. That said, Father John Misty with a band behind him is an entirely different story from Father John Misty solo: without a band, you’re getting introspection, sincerity and a guy that’s a whole lot more of Josh Tillman than his normal guise. His new work is beautifully cynical in a justified way; it blatantly criticizes everything he detests in a way unseen in his previous work.
His set began with “I’m Writing a Novel”, one of the more popular tunes off of last year’s Fear Fun. His guitar playing was full of energy and left me questioning if he really needed a backing band in the first place. The rather vocal crowd engaged him on the next song, “Only Son of the Ladiesman”, imploring him to sing “I’m a Phillies fan” rather than a “Dodgers fan”, to which Tillman responded, “I don’t give a fuck about baseball”. He moved on to “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which, other than Tillman’s vocal embellishments, was basically unremarkable. What was remarkable, however, was a new song titled “Chateau Lobby #9.” Verse by verse, it exemplified Tillman’s distaste for various types of people.
Seldom was Tillman 100% serious during this acoustic evening – he brought out a giant iPhone screen to perform his new songs behind, since “I understand this is how you enjoy watching new music.” But on his cover of Dory Previn’s “Lady With the Braid”, one could sense the reverence he held for this song through his steadfast vocals and uncompromising ballad guitar strumming. Moving from genuine to beautifully ironic, fans then appreciated a new track, “Bored in the USA”. Tillman’s falsetto shone during his 3 encores, most notably on “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me”, after which he gave the audience a heartfelt thank-you and left the stage.
Opening for Father John Misty in an almost surprisingly apt fashion was comedian Kate Berlant, whose stream-of-consciousness humor was welcomed with effusive cathartic laughter.
To be quite honest, I still prefer Father John Misty “the act”; with a band behind him, Tillman becomes much more of a showman. That is not to say, however, that Father John Misty solo isn’t something to which I owe a great deal of high regard. The fact that I was getting a different Tillman made it worthwhile in and of itself.