A night of crude wit, viscous melodies and the occasional hip-swing – Father John Misty graces the (former) Hammersmith Apollo with the theatrics you’d expect from one of indie-folk-rock’s most colourful characters.
Since his euphorically-received 2015 sophomoric LP, I Love You, Honeybear, Josh Tillman (better known by his stage name Father John Misty) has placated fans and dazzled critics with his unambiguous lyrics and caustic wit. His frequent social media feuds, often running rings around the journalists who try to pursue him, paint Tillman as an outcast in the industry. Yet, his indulgent melodies and big-band instrumentals present in both I Love You, Honeybear and this year’s follow-up, Pure Comedy, set the mark for a pulsating live performance – one big enough to sell out the Hammersmith Apollo across two nights.
Stood amongst a fifteen-piece band, augmented by string, brass and keys, Tillman left nothing behind from the production of the sound uttered throughout his records. His willowy figure prowled around the stage, ironically self-indulged as he delivered his performance with unerring perfection. Despite this, with an abundance of Tillman’s songs following a mid-tempo, drawn-out ambiance, there was often very little to ignite the crowd, leaving some parts of the night somewhat forgettable.
The few and far between moments of impassioned dramatics were only heightened by the lack of. Each drop to the knees and flick of the wrist were met with a great roar from the crowd, climaxing with the nonchalant toss of his guitar to the stage lackey during Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow. I Love You, Honeybear, Real Love Baby and Chateau Lobby #4 quenched the thirst for a raw singalong the crowd had been yearning for throughout the night. Tillman often interjected his performance with a sardonic joke, although at times difficult to pick up on what he was saying. Nonetheless, his mellowed arrogance shone through; “don’t cat-call me, I look shit tonight” – he responded to a longing crowd member.
Surprisingly, the most notable moments from the night came courtesy of the songs that fall outside of Tillman’s norm, the sizzling electro-pop beat of True Affection and curtain-closing rendition of The Ideal Husband paved a way for both artist and crowd to let loose and drop a few steps to the music. The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment provided the most curious element to the evening, particularly the visuals that were projected at the back of the stage. Directed by Drew Pearce, the partnering music video depicts a suave Tillman approaching a beaten-down version Tillman in a bar. After hitting it off, they return to Tillman’s apartment, sniff cocaine, dive into a pool, and finally, sleep together. Pearce said, “It has been an honour to explore the palpable sexual chemistry that exists between Josh Tillman and himself. I hope this video does their enduring love affair justice.”.
Father John Misty provided an evening of pure musical bliss with a memorable showcase of his work. Although his persona was surprisingly more toned down than I had expected, the ability to conquer a venue of this size, two times over, on the basis of your music, is very impressive.