You can say what you want about Father John Misty. Ryan Adams called him a self-important asshole, others might call him a genius, and some may write him off as the idiot who left the Fleet Foxes success story to fuel his LSD fused daydream persona. Regardless, entering Father John Misty’s universe as he takes on the Hammersmith Apollo, we’re let in on the full experience of the mystery man.
Opening with ‘Pure Comedy’, the title track of his most recent offering, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, embarks on a journey through a discography scattered with irony, heartache, self-deprecation and love.
It’s definitely a tongue in cheek glance at the contemporary, backed almost mockingly by timelessly orchestrated melodies. Launching into ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, Tillman juxtapose the ethereal manner of his sonics with urgent pop-cultural references. The critique of the entertainment industry is followed up with ‘Things It Would Be Helpful To Know Before The Revolution’. A ballade which sole purpose could have been showcasing Tillman’s vocal abilities had it not been for the substantial lyrics.
In an era of post-truth, where belief seems like a faint joke, drawing nearer the sole thought of post-modernistic irony, Tillman’s approach has never been more tangible. The show may seem like the most elaborately soundtracked existential crisis, lashing out against the mind-numbing effect of echo chambers and brainless entertainment, and yet, there is a sign of hope flickering through the sardonic self-deprecation.
The pseudonym reeks of distance, and yet Father John Misty is surprisingly grounded in his performance. Each song plays out as a personal quest to underline the evangelistic message of his music. The grand sound, completed with an orchestra at hand, still have nothing on the man himself, who seems to make it his mission to physically embody every turn within his soundscape as he frolics around the stage.
Though Father John Misty offers a brutal insight into the current human condition, he doesn’t let his own outlandish persona off the hook. “I’ve got the world by the balls / Am I supposed to behave?” the singer-songwriter states in ‘A Bigger Paper Bag’. The self-scrutiny continues on ‘Leaving LA’ where he croons: “I used to really like this guy / This new shit really kinda makes me wanna die.” Seems like not even the man and the myth can escape the gripping anxiety of this day and age.
Though Tillman’s Pure Comedy has him stand as a sardonic preacher, he does offer a more candid outlook through his earlier material. Lovestruck melodies such as ‘I Love You Honeybear’ and ‘Real Love Baby’ nicely balance out his sharper criticism, whilst eternal anthem ‘Bored In The USA’ balancing the brooding edge between searing satire and baffling honesty.
Though Pure Comedy takes a long hard look at the way in which we consume entertainment today, Father John Misty still manifests as a showman of class. Distilling all our inevitable flaws and the downfall of trusted institutions into a live set driven by musical dignity, Father John Misty captures the essence of the times in a meticulous way.
See our pictures from Father John Misty’s show here.
Words by Aurora Henni Krogh