FATHER JOHN MISTY - LIVE @ SHEPHERDS BUSH
I’ve been waiting for this for over a year. It reads 20:58 on my cracked Casio watch, and I know ‘Father John Misty’ - real name Joshua Tillman - will stride onto that stage any minute now. I’m at an almost deranged level of excitement, but also very unsure what to expect. You see, when I know I’m going to see a particular artist, or a particular band live, I avoid everything else revolving around that tour. I don’t look at previous set lists, I don’t look at live clips of them on YouTube, and I barely even know what Tillman himself looks like.
The lights go down, and five men walk on stage to deafening cheers, but none of them the lead singer himself. At least, I don’t think. The opening, rising, soaring notes from ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ begin, and Tillman himself bounds to the microphone from out of nowhere just in time to cry out the opening line, and it’s an incredible moment for me. I’ve spoken before on how music should make you feel, and this is it. I feel euphoria, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and unusually for me I belt out the opening line with him – This is fucking incredible!
Now, it would be easy to just talk about the songs he played throughout the night – the setlist can be seen at the bottom of this page – but it would also be lazy. While ‘Holy Shit’ and ‘The Ideal Husband’ are worth a particular mention for being genuinely stunning live, I instead want to talk about Tillman himself, and the way he conducts himself in a live setting.
A small, unknown band by the name of Oasis, and a genuinely lesser-known artist called Ryan Adams are my two true loves in the world of music. For a long time, no one has come close. I’ve been to countless Ryan Adams shows, and was lucky enough to see Oasis live before they broke up in 2009, along with hundreds of clips of them playing from YouTube. Neither band nor artist is particularly lively on stage, but it has never bothered me. After all, I’m there to listen to the music, not watch a Freddie Mercury performance. With Tillman though, this changes.
We’re a mere two minutes into ‘Honeybear’, before he drops to his knees in passionate exultation, and seconds later clambers into the crowd, clawing at the audience’s outstretched hands. Not only in this song, but throughout the night Tillman struts around the stage like a cross between the swaggering Mick Jagger and the sexual movements of Jarvis Cocker, and the crowd are in the palm of his sweaty, bravura filled hands. This is a second performance at Shepherds Bush – on the back of an extensive tour previous – but Tillman shows no signs of fatigue.
This ‘Father John Misty’ persona that has been created is clearly his most successful. He almost gives the impression of an eccentric cult leader, backed up by the fact that over the course of the night we see the show stopped for a fight on one of the higher levels, and a crazed follower yelling out for him to ‘represent the left, you have a voice’! during a five minute Q&A session with the audience. His deft, monosyllabic responses display the trademarks of a stand-up comedian, mere minutes after we’ve just witnessed a stunning ‘Holy Shit’ and ‘Ideal Husband’ in which Tillman throws himself around the stage like some sort of possessed preacher. At one moment – as he falls back and thrusts the air – it’s like he is fucking the stage and all around it, and this isn’t just gimmickry to make up for a lack of credible substance. This is all in conjunction with the music – an albeit two album – but nonetheless exceptional back catalogue he has created.
It feels like there are so many good things I want to say about the night and Tillman that it is just a stream of euphoric consciousness. That is how the show has made me feel, though, and I have had his songs in my head non-stop for two days, now. If those reading this take nothing else away from my various other posts, please just give Father John Misty a listen. I can’t stress that enough. I’m certainly not saying everyone will love him as much as me, but that show – and his persona – perfectly encompass why I want to do nothing but listen, talk, and write about music. For just under two hours Tillman had my eyes, ears and everything else in between fully fixed on him, and I felt incredibly lucky to be there. The crowd are all his ‘Honeybear’, and them – along with me – sure as hell love him.
I Love You, Honeybear
Only Son Of The Ladies Man
When You're Smiling and Astride Me
The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.
Writing A Novel
Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
Nancy From Now On
Bored In The USA
Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
This Is Sally Hatchet
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Fun Times in Babylon
The Ideal Husband
I Went To The Store One Day
Every Man Needs A Companion