Josh Tillman has been a part of the music scene in one way or another for years. Whether it be with his solo work under J. Tillman or pounding out grooves behind the drum kit for Fleet Foxes, the bearded rocker has slowly garnered a loving fan base, but after moving from the forests of Washington to the smog of Los Angeles, “J” found a new perspective and after leaving the Foxes decided to pursue a solo career under a new moniker, “Father John Misty.” With a new identity, Tillman was able to branch out and let lose as he recorded his debut album, Fear Fun, which has found a place on many music journalists’ top albums of 2012, including my own.
But even though he has a great album to support, what really made people all around the world fall in love with Father John Misty is the live show. And quite honestly, the record ain’t got nothin’ on the songs’ live incarnations, which the band demonstrated Saturday night at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre. Backed by two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, and string quartet, Tillman played the role of eccentric front man. Though each of the songs were written, performed, and recorded by Tillman himself, each member of his backing band pumped new life into the songs, adding his own personal flare and playing with energy as if he had written the songs himself, which is rare in a touring band. Lifted of the restrictions playing an instrument brings, Tillman sauntered across the stage in a ‘70s print blouse and grey suit, often with a bottle of Jameson in hand.
The band began with the album’s opener, “Fun Times In Babylon,” and instantly Misty turned on his lounge singer swagger. As he sang, his flamboyant hand gestures mimicked his lyrics and his facial expressions set the mood for each tune. Between songs, Tillman addressed the crowd, rambling about receiving a box with a vagina and an Xbox on Christmas morning and depleting his fifth of whiskey throughout the set. But no matter how odd the subject matter, his charm shined through and he entranced his audience. Father John Misty ended his set with the album’s first single, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” before coming back for an encore with a cover of Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again.”
Though the band has been on tour through the U.S. and Europe for the last 12 weeks, each member’s energy was as if this was his first show, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. The new year finds Father John Misty playing more U.S. shows as well as a few in Australia in February. You can find a full list of tour dates here and if he’s coming through your town, do yourself a favor and go.
All photos by Katrina Nattress
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