Father John Misty Concert Review
Last night I saw Father John Misty in Vancouver, live at The Orpheum. Openers Tess and Dave know how to warm up a crowd – it started with their entrance. Music played as they entered from opposite sides of the stage, walking in unison. Before the first song ended the pair slow danced. Dave spun Tess around and the crowd applauded.
During a short but tight set Dave sang most of the vocals while Tess occasionally joined in. With each break between songs, the clapping grew louder. The two could have won first prize at a disco dance off. Tess was the choreographer and Dave was bandleader.
Their set included mom and pop dance moves from the 70s, Final Countdown-esque guitar riffs and even a costume change for Tess. Backing tracks gave the duo a full sound. Anybody that was lucky enough to arrive early enjoyed the opening act. Tess and Dave set the stage for a great night of music.
I stayed in my seat between sets. The Orpheum is an amazing concert venue. One guy walked in and looked up as he walked down the aisle. All he could say was “Wow. Wow. Wow.” Father John Misty (born Josh Tillman) has some pretty good-looking fans, many of which enjoy interesting hats. I counted at least 12.
As 9 o’clock passed, the theatre filled. The lights flickered; the crowd screamed. The lights went off; the crowd screamed louder. A big band rolled out from backstage as if they coming out of clown car. Later, I counted seven members in total. Everybody was sitting. Before singing any lyrics Father John Misty said, “Y’all can stand up.” Everybody did and nobody sat back down the rest of the night.
It took less than a song for everybody to start singing along and bobbing their heads. Halfway through “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” people left their seats and filed to the front of the stage. Draped in all black, Misty poured emotion in to every lyric. He sang with his hands the same way Italians talk.
Mid song he hugged a couple fans – first a man and then a woman. By the fourth song, “Only Son of the Ladiesman,” concertgoers filled all three aisles 20 rows deep. Everybody wanted to reach out and touch Papa John.
I looked both directions and saw people reciting every lyric. Country chords twanged as Father John danced with whisky in a wine glass. Tillman stuck his microphone in the stand and fell to his knees with the last note of the song. The noise alternated between music and applause. During each break the crowd reacted louder than the one before.
After soft starts to songs the band would turn up the amplitude. During one song FJM took out the chord from his guitar and tossed it 15 feet through the air to a roadie side stage.
He used the whole stage, often falling to floor with meaning before popping back up. He stumbled across the stage back and forth in a beautiful mess – it reminded me of a controlled drunkenness. He shadowboxed before falling again and everybody loved it. Looking around, I saw smiling faces in deep concentration.
The crowd swayed to “Fun Times in Babylon.” FJM said, “Thank you very much” and “I love you too” between songs. Any time the lights shined on the audience I took in the surroundings. There were ornate carvings, tall columns, painted murals and fancy chandeliers. I didn’t want to take them for granted.
People shimmied and shaked. A couple danced drunkenly in the aisle. I counted 10-15 spins. Papa John exhibited impressive crowd control. He beckoned for more cheers and he was greeted with hoots and hollers.
I’m a big fan of Misty’s literal lyrics on “Now I’m Learning To Love The War”
Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining
The high gloss
The tape and the gear
Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish
Aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye
Lets just call this what it is
Father John Misty
On the right side of the stage a tall male fan was offering John a small bouquet. I don’t know if Tillman didn’t notice it or chose not to. During “Bored In The USA,” with a whisky in hand, J. took a cell phone and filmed a selfie video as he finished the song.
The start of the next song sounded like a duet with Billy Joel on piano and Father John Misty on guitar. I anticipated the build with the rest of the crowd and it surpassed expectations. Fast paced drumming, frantic keys and distorted guitars created a full wall of music. To end the song, Misty extended the mic stand in to the crowd to sing the final ohhhh.
It was not until this point that I realized Tess and Dave were part of the band. His crowd presence rubbed off on them. I thought to myself, “How could I add some of these moves to my own dance repertoire?” During an instrumental break Father John did nothing but groove. His silhouette bounced around in front of seizure inducing lights. Pink, purple and green pulsated. The front row reached out and grabbed him.
Many songs started mellow. Just as many ended in cacophony.
It was time for my personal favourite, “I Love You, Honeybear.” Wherever John went, the spotlight followed. Finally, he took the bouquet from earlier and embraced the guy who gave it to him. He rubbed it on his crotch as he walked across the stage then he threw it in to the crowd.
During the song, he sang directly to 4 or 5 fans as he clutched their hands. He blew kisses to the crowd, and then fell in to the arms of 3 unsuspecting people in the front row. He ended his set by blowing more kisses before exiting the stage.
The crowd didn’t chant for an encore. Instead, they cheered for as long as they needed to until the band re-emerged. Cheers grew louder and louder as roadies worked on the microphones. Nobody budged. The lights shined out on to the audience and Father John Misty returned. He was solo, it was him and his acoustic guitar.
He sang an acoustic version of “I Went To The Store One Day.” Enthralled, nobody made a noise. We listened intently as he flexed his vocal range. Before he could finish the song he had to pause for the crowd’s eruption to stop.
Next was a perfect cover of “Revolution” by The Beatles. “You know it’s gonna be alright” repeated Misty. Finally, was a mind-exploding rendition of “The Ideal Husband.”
Father John Misty dropped his guitar and threw himself in to the performance. The song kept building and building until it reached its apex and the show ended. Tillman made sure he touched everybody in the front row. He threw up a peace sign then walked back stage.
Photo credit to @jamessoulodre
For upcoming show dates, check out our Top 9 Concerts in Vancouver
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