Show Review: Father John Misty @ Paradise Rock Club 3.31.15

by Amanda Hoover (Journalism), published April 24th 2015

photos by Ben Stas (Journalism/English)

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When Josh Tillman walks onto the stage, girls go crazy.

It’s a strange phenomenon that doesn’t happen often in the world of psychedelic folk rock–sex symbols and their adoring fans seem reserved for black and white film reel footage of The Beatles at Shea Stadium or One Direction’s arena shows. Tillman’s admirers, however, aren’t your typical fan girls: they’re a more timid breed, stepping back to give him some room as when he jumps into the audience or apprehensively reaching out a hand to touch him as he leans over the stage’s edge.

That’s because Tillman, who performs under the moniker Father John Misty, seems almost inappropriate to swoon over–like you’re uncool for thinking he’s got an ounce of talent or above average bone structure. It seems like he thinks he’s above praise–like he’s enlightened past the point of needed fans and would be just as content signing to an empty venue as he is to stand before the crowd at Paradise Rock Club. With slicked back hair, an overgrown beard and loose ends of a dress shirt separated from his suit, he deflects the awkward attention by giving it right back, getting just inches from the faces of fans and serenading them in a way that makes not only his chosen victim, but the entire audience, uncomfortable. He likes to make at least one person feel like they’ve just ridden the bus with a pervert, he deadpans, just one of the remarks in his playful banter throughout the night.

Walking onstage to take his place in front an illuminated heart that housed the words, “No Photography,” Tillman opened the night with “I Love You, Honeybear,” the title track from his latest album. From the moment he was out of the gate, he stormed the stage, kicking the mic stand to the floor and swinging his hips, all the while keeping a stone cold serious look on his face–a character that he rarely broke throughout the set. Next, he broke into “True Affection,” a techno-driven song that strayed from Tillman’s folk influence without derailing the style of the set and gave him an additional opportunity to show off his trademark, animalistic dance moves.

Tillman laced together tracks from both of his albums, bringing back favorites like the chaotic “I’m Writing A Novel” but also treating audiences to new, romantic ballads like “Strange Encounter” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.” Highlights from the night included I Love You Honeybear’s breakout single “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)” where Tillman picked up the guitar, as well as the song that put him on the map three years ago, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” Tillman wrapped up the show with “Holy Shit,” an overdramatized, existential ballad that he pulled off flawlessly.

Returning for an encore, Tillman asked if there were any Leonard Cohen fans in the crowd, and responded to affirmative cheers with “not anymore,” before launching into a cover of “I’m Your Man.” The eerie love song was a perfect fit on Tillman, who upped the tempo just enough make it his own and to make the crowd swoon.

By the end of watching one of Tillman’s sets, it’s easy to see that he knows he’s attractive. He emulates Jim Morrison’s attitude and masters Elvis’s hip swinging, all the while donning a dark and mysterious vibe. Tillman can brush off the admiration and mock the fan girls as much as he wants, but he can’t deny the fact that he feeds off of it and relishes every moment standing on stage as Father John Misty in front of an eager crowd.

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