The last time I’d seen Josh Tillman, AKA Father John Misty, he was opening for The Walkmen at the Commodore. I knew nothing about him or his music but I left the show enlightened and with a hunger for more of his music. Since then, I’ve listened to Fear Fun a lot and now it was time to see the man on the stage for his own tour for the critically acclaimed I Love You, Honeybear.
I’d missed the opener, Tess & Dave, who I’d never heard of but taking a listen, seem pretty fitting as an opener with their laid-back, dream pop-y sound. As I settled into my seat at the Orpheum, waiting for the headliner to take the stage, the air smelled of alcohol which was fitting given who was about to perform and the number of people who were milling about outside as I was making my way inside. It was getting more and more humid as the audience filed back into their seats and the fog rolled across the first few rows, spat out from a machine at the front of the room. The stage was set and after a droning repeat of “sleep; wake up” coming from the sound system, the band launched into ‘Everyman Needs A Companion’ from Fear Fun.
- Tillman put a strong performance on all night, dancing and really putting his all into his act. Lights dropped as a deep red shot up from the floor of the stage, turning the band into silhouettes for ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ (Fear Fun) and then they followed up with ‘When You’re Smiling And Astride Me’ (I Love You, Honeybear), the first song from the new album for the night. The stage went dark again, with a spotlight shining on Tillman as they started ‘Only Son Of The Ladiesman’ (Fear Fun), until the band kicked in and the lights shot up, illuminating the band on stage as Tillman played his guitar. A wine glass seemingly came out of nowhere for the country twang of ‘Tee Pees 1-12’ (Fear Fun), fitting Tillman’s image perfectly.
‘Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ (I Love You, Honeybear) was one of the most powerful songs of the night, with the whole band playing heavy and Tillman giving his acoustic a heave to the back of the stage to someone who may not have caught it. They killed it with that song; one of my favourites from the night. ‘Funtimes In Babylon’ played out as the title would have you believe and the drums hit a heavy jungle rhythm in ‘Nancy From Now On’ (both Fear Fun) before Honeybear came back with the oddly named ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)’.
‘I’m Writing A Novel’ had a drum solo and ‘Now I’m Learning To Love The War’ (Fear Fun x2) had Tillman really giving his all into his performance until the majority of the band left the stage, leaving just the singer and keyboardist to perform ‘Bored In The USA’ (I Love You, Honeybear), a harsh, present day twist when compared to the similarly titled classic ‘Born In The USA’. The complete band brought the thunder and turmoil as they came back together and rocked ‘Holy Shit’ before the dance-y, space-age ‘True Affections’ (I Love You, Honeybear double-feature) that had Tillman’s silhouette really showing his moves over a background of solid pink. In case it hadn’t come across, the lighting on some of the songs really left an impression, and ‘This Is Sally Hatchet’ (Fear Fun) was one of them, with the spinning lights lending to some of the haunting madness that the sound of the song brings to mind. The set-closing song was the title track from the new album, which had more of that red light backing silhouettes, as well as Tillman finally grabbing a bouquet that someone brought to the show for reasons no one understands. As the bouquet was tossed into the crowd and Tillman collapsed on the stage, the crowd went wild with applause anxiously awaiting an encore, which is exactly what Tillman gave.
Taking the stage alone, Tillman played the melancholy ‘I Went To The Store One Day’ (I Love You, Honeybear) which can hit deep depending on whether you can empathize or just sympathize with the lyrics. A major surprise was a cover of The Beatles ‘Revolution’ which had the band louder and more upbeat as the crowd sang along. This, however, seemed to just be a build-up for the real finale of ‘The Ideal Husband’ which was just explosive in the sound and in Tillman’s final push in his performance for the night. To just say that the band killed it would be an understatement; they had so much energy and Tillman put everything he had into the night, whether it was with singing, playing guitar, or putting on a performance through gestures or dance. Though I did love seeing Father John Misty open for The Walkmen, seeing the band headline a tour was something else completely. If you can, go see them; it’s rare to see that much put into a show, and it’s not to be missed.