Our Father, who art in Southampton, John be thy name. Give us tonight our fix, and deliver us from tedium. For the stage is your kingdom, the sex, the drugs, the glory. Forever and ever, Amen.
Born a son of evangelical Christian parents, a strict life of repentance, shame and the impending Armageddon, Josh Tillman was brought to this world to spread the good word. Of debauched sex, hard drinking, over indulgence and basically having the time of his fucking life.
Tonight, everything makes sense. Everything you have read about him, his childhood, the “Josh Tillman solo years”, the time on the drum stool at the back of the stage with Fleet Foxes and now with two records of religious imagery, Hollywood scorn, filth and depravity and love of a good woman, here he is snake hipped preacher, dropping to his knees at the alter. His obsession, the performance. The persona. Father John Misty.
It’s a serene start to the evening, despite maniacal screams from the front rows, ‘Everyman Needs A Companion’ is a gentle country self improvement pamphlet of a song, the stage bathed in soft purple light, Father John is mainly a silhouette throughout this and second song ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, this being a solo effort of distorted guitar with minimal accompaniment. A perfect couple, the former setting the scene for the service we’re attending, an introduction to his world. “John the Baptist took Jesus to the river on a Friday night”, the latter castigating himself and his companion “Jesus Christ, girl. What are people going to think?”.
A running theme to the night, a concept art installation. An album and sequel brought to life. Part Jarvis Cocker, part Freddie Mercury, part Morrissey, part Jesus Christ. Flailing arms, racing stage left, stage right, his knees bruised by dropping to them readily to convey every inch, stretching every sinew in recital.
For years and miles of recording tape that few heard and apparently abandoned by Father John, the refuse of Josh Tillman’s failure, the stage presence of his rebirth is masterly. Much has been said of these two halves of a UK tour that began last October, elongated to May and will take in summer festivals, not a bad word muttered. If mild singer-songwriter come back seat drummer that became wild, deviant superstar with legions of fans fawning and falling at his feet is one and the same, then the devil has been met at the crossroads. This pseudonym of Tillman’s is purely stage and tape however, but it is a work of deft touch. Perfect balance of camp preening and prancing, alluring, raunchy hip shakes and angry soap box bellowing, punk activist. It is a display of exquisite showmanship; the greatest frontman of his generation.
No bias shown to either long player, nine each (the only complaint that could be made is the missing ‘Strange Encounter’) and a cover of his “favourite love song” ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails. There is a crescendo to the main set as ‘Bored in the USA’ is followed by ‘Holy Shit’ and ‘True Affection’, ‘This Is Sally Hatchet’ and finally ‘I Love You, Honeybear’. Highlights are the whole god damn thing, but he is in full flight on ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ and ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’ and lastly, after an encore of his quietest moment ‘I Went to the Store One Day’ and the electro-pop of ‘Closer’ the curtain falls with ‘The Ideal Husband’, a laundry list of the bad shit he’s done in the past, as told to his prospective betrothed.
A wave, a handful of blown kisses to his adoring flock, a congregation of converts, a plethora of plaudits dripping off of every man, woman and child’s lips as they walk from the guilded hall (sic). A virtuoso performance; everyone is Misty-eyed.