As I opened my laptop to start this review, I got a notification on my phone: Instagram. And then another. And another. Suddenly I had 10 new followers and 30 likes all in a two minute span. As I scrolled back to see what happened, I read: "@fatherjohnmisty has tagged you in a comment: via @sam_engel." Father John Misty himself regrammed my photo. On his instagram. To his 21,800 followers. Now, an hour later, the picture has over 1500 likes and people are commenting asking if they can save it. You can find it here and yes, you can use it as long as I receive appropriate photo credits.
Here I sit and reflect. Why did he pick my picture over everyone else's? The picture, in which Josh Tillman (Father John Misty is a moniker for ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman) holds a fan's iPhone to his face, shows him filming himself. His face appears in focus on the iPhone screen, followed by the blurred rest of his head behind the iPhone. This picture is Father John Misty; it perfectly encapsulates who he is as a performer. On this tour, his only stage decor is a giant neon heart that states "No Photography." Last time I saw him, performing solo, he sat behind a giant cutout of an iPhone, framing himself precisely so we could film him on our normal-size iPhones. The act of Father John Misty is cynical in the way it mocks us — from his first single off his second album, "Bored in the USA," in which he complains about the "useless education / a subprime loan / on a craftsman home / they keep my prescription filled..." to his minimal stage decor. My picture of Tillman filming himself is an ideal one-shot representation of this approach.
During last night's show, this moment occurred towards the end of "Bored in the USA," the first of three songs in the encore ("a tradition I learned in France," he told us sarcastically). He grabbed a lucky fan's iPhone and began to film himself (I tracked down the videos on Instagram, but it seems they have since been deleted). The song ended and he remarked, "Alright, let's do it again! Make sure we got the shot." He instructed his band to start the song again, and halfway through the first line he stopped. "Fuck, we got it," he said. As he watched the video on the phone, he told us a bit snarkily, "wow, great, so life-like, almost like you were here watching it live," which solicited a roar of laughter from the crowd.
Father John Misty's show last night, the first of two sold out nights at The Fillmore, was a humor-filled performance full of expert showmanship. This was one of those shows where everyone walked out and thought, “I have just witnessed greatness.” The night began with a dimly lit stage as the band opened with “I Love You, Honeybear.” As the lights grew brighter, so did Tillman's performance. He swung the mic stand around and frequently fell to his knees, weak from the exertion. This was not a half-assed performance, something he acknowledged eight songs in when he told the crowd, "I hope you're having a good time because I'm working my ass off up here. I feel spicy." The 20-song set was filled with some of the best banter I've ever seen from a performer. The audience went wild when he compared Coachella to a "rich girl's hippie themed sweet-sixteen, but her dad's friends stayed and hung out." My favorite Misty quote: when a man about 50 people back from the stage yelled out for him to take his shirt off. His response? "If you really cared that much about seeing me naked you would be a hell of a lot closer. These people up here get me. They know it's not just about the nudity."
Throughout the show, Tillman played hits from both of his albums, Fear Fun and the newly released I Love You, Honeybear. I highly recommend picking them both up. The social commentary Tillman offers is both genius and hilarious. Tillman exhibits his extraordinary showmanship through not only his vocal talent, but in his candor and the way he interacts with the crowd. The lights were simple. The decor minimal. There were no crazy solos — just straight up hip-shaking seduction from Tillman. He referred to his dancing as "a pretty intense psycho drama between me and the mic stand right now."
Tillman asked the audience for questions and comments later in the set. “How do you get your hair like that?” a woman asked. “The result of a lot of products and sleeping on a bus for a month. The next question: “What happens when you die?” Tillman’s perfectly dry reply: “the happening ceases.”
Overall, the nearly two hour set demonstrated Tillman's full realization of the Father John Misty persona, as well as his talent in leading a relatively simple, but highly entertaining, show. I left The Fillmore last night genuinely impressed. This was my fourth show in a week but by far the best on all levels: skill, venue, and entertainment value. It's no surprise that Father John Misty sold out two nights here. I would go again in a heartbeat.
But for now, watching live videos on Youtube will have to suffice. Until we meet again Misty.
Photos by Sam Engel // Senior Staff