Father John Misty Mesmerises Bristol Audience
by Finn Dickinson
As I wander into the main room of Colston Hall, I take a look around and wonder what I’m going to write about my wait for the opening act. The architecture? The underdeveloped crowd? The stage setup? I wonder if I could just get away with describing my thought process of what to write about, but in really scarce detail I wonder. Yeah, probably. Thankfully, I’m not left waiting for too long before Khruangbin take to the stage. Although, from their surreal appearance, perhaps ‘materialise’ would be a better descriptor. The trio look like the cast of a neo-noir film, perhaps playing the band performing in the background of a chiaroscuro-bathed dive bar where the protagonist drowns their perpetual sorrows. Yeah, I can see that, I think to myself.
Meanwhile, outside of my imagination, Khraungbin are playing some great stuff. Their opening melodies are a distinct mix of psychedelic soul and laid-back funk which sets the perfect tone for the rest of the night. The pace doesn’t remain consistent for too long, though. Like some kind of tranquiliser-addled beast awaking from its slumber, the music transitions from smooth, angular melodies to an almost pure rock and roll fray and back again. Thrown together with sparse but effective vocals and incalculable groove, Khraungbin’s set is hypnotic to say the least. As Father John Misty would accurately remark later on, “You can just sit around in your bathrobe staring into the middle distance and listen to it”. Khraungbin insist the audience “Make some noise for the Father!”, and are enthusiastically obliged, before they finish their impressive performance.
‘The Father’ (AKA Josh Tillman) appears some time later, walking onto the darkened stage amidst ominous, rumbling background noise. Light illuminates the room as he launches into Everyman Needs a Companion, followed immediately by Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings. The effervescent melodies perfectly contrast the dark haze of the opening, successfully leaving the audience captivated, and once Tillman hits his stride he appears unstoppable. Blazing through a performance of only about an hour and a half in length, but which manages to cover almost his entire discography, he cuts through his excellently performed material with the occasional sardonic comment. “This is a song about the story of my life” he insincerely opines about I’m Writing a Novel, whilst the occasional ironic thumbs-up or exaggerated pastiche of the rock-star genus (“HOW’S EVERYONE DOING TONIGHT?!”) suffices elsewhere. Other highlights include a striking rendition of Bored in the USA, the laugh-track of which is graciously provided by the crowd, and which sounds even better for it. Chateau Lobby #4 and True Affection are also excellent; the former offers gorgeous melodies which truly come to life in a live setting, whilst the latter provides a futuristic, near-otherworldly experience.
The inevitable encore is undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. Tillman saunters back on stage (“I swear I never do this”) and offers up a stunningly heartfelt rendition of I Went to the Store One Day. This is a total contrast to the sarcastic remarks he’s been peppering into the evening’s proceedings – you can hear the earnestness in his voice. Now, if you’d told me that the evening would feature a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer, I would probably have scoffed. You would have been correct, though. The cries of “I wanna fuck you like an animal / You bring me closer to God” sounded impressively impassioned coming from Tillman, who managed to emanate all the raw, carnal energy of the original – his “favourite love song”. The Ideal Husband was a spectacular finisher, in which all the energy dissipated throughout the audience was directed back at the stage, and was matched completely by Tillman’s sonic power. Raucous, frenetic and one of the best performances of the evening, The Ideal Husband was an immensely successful high to bow out on.
He may adopt a persona of casual indifference, but you’d be hard pressed to say Tillman doesn’t appreciate his fans. The look of ecstasy on his face as he wandered along the front row shaking hands with the crowd said it all. ‘Father John Misty’ may be shrouded in mystery, but there’s a total sincerity to his music that bursts through, staring you in the face – and that’s a truly wonderful thing to behold.