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Every side of Father John Misty's dynamic persona shined at Northrop

Father John Misty on Saturday at Northrop

Father John Misty on Saturday at Northrop

Father John Misty is a complicated character comprised of many things. One thing he’s not: dull.

When listening to the real-life Joshua Tillman's albums recorded as Father John Misty, it’s easy to gather there are a number of pieces to his persona. He’s an indulgent, well-constructed narcissist with an interesting take on life and the world. He’s honest, has a dark sense of humor, and a penchant for drug use. He’s also an excellent storyteller, songwriter, and singer.

After seeing Tillman live, most would agree: He is a captivating performer that basks in adulation. The man was made for the stage. Based on evidence from his records — 2012's Fear Fun and 2015's I Love You, Honeybear — and what could be observed Saturday at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis, the beginning, middle, and end of the show offered a complete representation of the parts summing the Father John Misty whole. 

The beginning

The lights went out on a capacity crowd at Northrop a few minutes before 9 p.m. The fog machines cranked up and seven people in the mist found their way to instruments and microphones and launched into “Everyman Needs a Companion.” Misty sang, “Every man needs a companion / Someone to turn his thoughts to / I know I do.”

As the lights came on, Tillman’s hips, knees, and thighs moved to and fro and the audience swooned. Misty’s lyrics, though not always inspiring, are sincere, so it made sense that he'd opened with “Companion." The sold-out crowd was filled with his adoring companions. We’ll call this the softer side of Misty. And he played a few other sweet songs throughout the show (“I Went to The Store One Day,” “I Love You, Honeybear”).

The middle

Somewhere around the middle of the set, Misty performed great renditions of fan-favorites “Chateau Lobby #4” and “I’m Writing a Novel.” There’s a line in each song that represent the Misty ethos and his performance style well. In “Chateau,” when comparing his wife, Emma, to other humans he sings, “People are boring.”

For most of the show, it felt as though Tillman was alone onstage. He wasn’t unpleasant, but he did feel a bit distant. There wasn’t a lot of interaction until the encore, where he joked that hanging out on college campuses in a black suit was his norm on Saturday nights. Based on his general stance on society (listen to “Bored in The USA”), maybe he genuinely finds people boring.  

In “Novel” — a song based on a drug trip and/or a really weird dream — Misty sings about writing “house” on the door of a home, and telling the occupants to vacate it because, “My reality is realer than yours.” Misty, the cooler-than-thou narcissist, was on display Saturday night, too.

The end

After closing his set with “I Love You, Honeybear” (sweet Misty!) the crowd stuck around and cheered FJM into an encore.

After a few minutes, he came back out and fingerpicked an acoustic guitar while crooning “I Went to The Store One Day.” It was beautiful. And then he said, “This is my favorite love song," before launching into a cover of Nine Inch Nails' song “Closer." The crowd was on board, Tillman was all in, and he did the dark, lusty song justice (see a fan-recorded clip below).

The finale was the angsty, self-critical, and sarcastic FJM rocker “The Ideal Husband.” The man who began the show swaying sensually while singing about needing a companion ended it wailing about what an awful person he’s been and then ironically asking, “Wouldn’t I make the ideal husband?”

There was nothing left to do but thank the crowd for coming along for the ride. So, Tillman did. He shook a few hands in the front row, got hugged by a guy who hopped onstage, and walked away, exhausted.

When Tillman left the stage, many in the crowd probably felt tired for him, but not tired of him. The songs were tight, his vocals soared, and every piece of the person the audience came to see had been on display, to the fullest, for an hour and a half. He and his band played a terrific show that spanned the spectrum of his anything-but-dull persona.

Critic's bias: I like Father John Misty. However, listening to his songs can sometimes feel like, “I get it. You’re cooler than me. You’ve experienced more than I have. I have a useless education and debt. Sorry I’m not you, man.”

Maybe it’s just me, but he can be a little much. That said, from opening to closing, he played a clean, swag-filled, enjoyable set.

The crowd:

Drunk people: 3.5.

Bottles of Dasani: More than I’ve seen at any show, ever.

Bob Marley T-shirt: 1. 

Women in love with Tillman: all of ‘em.

Overheard in the crowd: When the lights came on and people headed to the exits, Tillman shook a few hands in the front row and was the last to leave the stage. One of the hundreds of awe-struck fans at the show who’d trade their lunch money for a wink from Misty said, “I’m not leaving until I can’t see him anymore.”

Random notebook dump: First Northrop concert. They don’t allow beer inside the theater. This is the weirdest show I’ve been to.