Father John Misty at First Avenue, 5/21/13
Photo by Youa Vang
Father John Misty with Solid Gold
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman returned to Minneapolis for the fourth time within a year last night. The singer, who recently celebrated his 32nd birthday and the one-year anniversary of his debut album [as Father John Misty] Fear Fun, seems to love this city. Mr. Misty toured non-stop since last year, sitting mostly on same twelve songs that make up Fear Fun.
So what can you get out of a FJM show that you don't get sitting in your room with the lights down and candles burning? All of the little nuances: humor that is so sarcastic it borders on insulting for the uninitiated, his captivating voice, and, most importantly, his dancing. From the screams of the women in the crowd, you would have thought you were at a male strip club when Tillman brought out his sexy gyrations.
With his cup of whiskey -- or maybe it was water -- Tillman in his usual white button down shirt and black pants took his place onstage, took a sip, and spit it out into the air. Grabbing his mic, he remarked, "I just blew our special effects budget for the evening." Amidst his elaborate stage set of band members and large stuffed white tiger, his mural loomed large and colorful behind Tillman. For those that were attentive enough, it was a treat to find hidden pictures and meanings within the mural, the best being a naked picture of him at the top looking at the audience.
Wasting no time, Josh launched into "Funtimes in Babylon" and belted out the line "Look out, Hollywood, here I come" less like a threat and more as a promise. Showing his love for the Minnesota/Prince/First Ave., he name-dropped Lake Minnetonka during "Only Son of a Ladiesman," a favorite song of his to perform -- one he says he embodies every night. Grabbing his acoustic guitar for "I'm Writing a Novel," the singer noticed the crowd with their cameras, and said, "Let's carry onward and upward...to a sea of deteriorating MP3s."
Photo by Youa Vang
The haunting "Misty's Nightmares 1 & 2" had the house turning down the lights to a carnival-like atmosphere. Watching Tillman, you come to the conclusion that he is an entertainer first. Not that he didn't produce a stellar album, but it's hard to take your eyes off of him. His stage banter is never canned, but just random thoughts that run through his head. He thanked the crowd with, "Thanks. Thanks for all of the good things you've done in your life. Thanks for that time you pulled your brother from the frozen lake. Thanks for giving your mother that kidney. Thanks for tutoring after school when you really wanted to be at the arcade. It's hard to say 'thank you' so many times," and as the band played the opening lines for "This is Sally Hatchet," he pondered, "Am I insincere? I don't even know anymore."
Perhaps because he's been playing the same album live for a while, the band changed up "Well, You Can Do It Without Me," making it much more bluesy and soulful. Tillman played into the impassioned character, and kept everyone waiting by pausing to tuck in his shirt before belting out the final line "But you can do it without me." Once the final note was played, he declared, "Nailed it," and mimed wiping his hands, then fake crying, before saying, "Onward and upward, friends." He went on to make the audience laugh some more with his most spot on song "Now I'm Learning to Love the War," a misnomer not about war, but about the struggle of putting out an album. During the piece, Tillman ponders all of the things that go into making an album, even ad-libbing, "Shit" into the song, as if he didn't realize it until was singing the words how much work it takes to be a musician.
Photos by Youa Vang
As he pulled out his acoustic guitar again for "Tee Pees 1-12," he joked, "That's right. That's right. Acoustic guitar, motherfuckers. Shit's about to get crazy." Some "clever" audience member shouted out their request for "Free Bird," to which Josh asked, "Something caught my ear just now," and the guy didn't fail requesting it again. Tillman said, "Yeah, there it is again. Is it some local regional Minnesota charm? Is it local to here? That's what we love about each place we go to each night. It's original." "Tee Pees 1-12" is easily the band's most country song, pulling from the '70s era of drug-induced country music, and showcased Tillman's talent of writing fun songs, something he felt was missing from his career when he was J. Tillman.
For "Everyman Needs a Companion," Josh added in an extra verse, with hilarious lyrics about Satan's mom and getting matching pentagram tattoos. The singer saved his big hit for last, the moody "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" had the audience hooting with its bluesy and dark guitar. During the extended bridge, he grabbed the stage light sitting on the floor and waved it around for ambiance, while dancing onstage.
Before his encore, someone had requested for him to take off his shirt. He responded with, "Anytime someone screams 'Take your shirt off!' I like to think it's a sex criminal saying it. Thank you so much. I wonder what it would take for me to take my shirt off. Maybe if I'm attacked by bees. [mimes getting attacked by bees] Yell something original. If you yelled something original, you will be my hero." As he came back onstage for his encore, the request was made again, forcing Josh to address it with, "Just shut up for one second and imagine the following scenario: I come back onstage for my encore. Someone yells to me, 'Take your shirt off!' I begin to blush, and sort of tell a half-joke that no one really laughs at. And then I take my shirt off, and I stand here in shame and dignity, and the whole crowd goes [gasps]. And you're the only person going, 'Yeah!' And then you have an existential crisis where you're like, 'What is it that I want out of people? What is it that I want out of life? Do I equate nudity with pure raunch? Do I have a capacity for innocence?' It's not fun."
For his encore, he opened with a new piece, a solo acoustic love song, that while touching, was sweet with charming lyrics. He also included the new "I Love You, Honeybear," another song that is soulful and dark -- even if it is a love song. Tillman's treat that he was saving for the end of the night was a cover of the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun." With its tempo changes and fiery delivery, the song was made for Josh. Happiness may be a warm gun, but it also certainly is a Father John Misty crowd.
Critic's bias: I saw Father John Misty when he opened for Youth Lagoon last year (helping sell out that show), and have been captivated ever since. While the band is great, Father John Misty is Josh Tillman. Don't miss out on seeing him (he will be back in July for the Basilica Block Party).
The crowd: Less hipster and more suburban than anticipated.
Overheard in the crowd: "You're so lucky." - a girl to her friend after Josh pointed to her as he sang the lyrics "Smoke everything in sight with every girl I've ever loved."
Random notebook dump: The stuffed white tiger's name is Dartantion.
Funtimes in Babylon
Only Son of a Ladiesman
Nancy From Now On
I'm Writing a Novel
Misty's Nightmares 1 & 2
This is Sally Hatchet
Now I'm Learning to Love the War
Well, You Can Do It Without Me
Tee Pees 1-12
Everyman Needs a Companion
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
New Song (?)
Happiness is a Warm Gun - Beatles cover
I Love You, Honeybear
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