Since 2012, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, has unexpectedly emerged as a singular (if not idiosyncratic) voice. Whether by virtue of his lyrics, which routinely defy the presumed polarities of wit and empathy, he has cultivated a rare space for himself in the musical landscape – and the Brighton audience was treated to two hours of this fascinating enigma.
2017 is the year of Father John and the release of Pure Comedy in April, an unrelenting tour schedule and a spate of controversial media appearances have turned him into something of a global star. He was in perfect form at the Dome, with his crystal clear diction sounding brilliant.
However, his lyrics are his greatest strength and the marvellous arrangement of topics he sings about (politics, sex, self-doubt, anxiety) are fully appreciated in a live environment and come across more honest when you can see the sweat beaming off his forehead. He has somehow managed to cultivate a persona that is not only arrogantly confident but also still vulnerable. Accompanied by six musicians, Misty stood in the centre mainly singing and jumping around the stage, whilst also saving some time to strum an acoustic guitar on the odd occasion.
Less than a minute after making his entrance he had the crowd in the palm of his hand with the very first line: “The comedy of man starts like this,” his set indeed started with the title track from his new record along with three others from Pure Comedy. The set list was mainly split between songs from that album, 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear and the odd splattering of Fear Fun compositions.
Running close to two hours, the audience got their money’s worth in what was a carefully crafted and flawless performance. Highlights included ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’s ecstatic “oh”s, as he fell to his knees, whilst ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ even featured a casual toss of his guitar to a roadie mid-song. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, meanwhile, featured the biggest sing-along of the night before hips got shaking to ‘Total Entertainment Forever’. His renowned in-between song banter was also on point as he made jokes with the audience, humorously arguing that Fleet Foxes (his old band) would not be in attendance.
The mesmerising closer ‘The Ideal Husband’ then had him exhibiting a Jim Morrison-esque meltdown, which the crowd thoroughly lapped up. It capped off what was a terrific show performed by one of the music industry’s most self-aware, intelligent songwriters.