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Father John Misty @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Toronto Live Review

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Father John Misty @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, October 15, 2013

Father John Misty @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Toronto Live Review

Who: Father John Misty
From: Seattle, USA
Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON
When: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Total Score: 9.4/10

[starreviewmulti id=3 tpl=20]

Josh Tillman, once drummer for the critically acclaimed Fleet Foxes, has now for the past couple of years been touring, performing, and writing music under the moniker, Father John Misty. With only one record as Misty, Tillman has swooned fans and critics alike. Fear Fun, a 2012 release, was the beginning of a project that would soon truly define Tillman as not simply a musician, but as a performer. Fear Fun shows off Tillman’s ingeniously clever and satirical wit in his writing as well as his ability to effectively, and quite effortlessly, tell stories that capture your imagination and fill your head with images of whimsical characters, paths of recklessness, and loves lost before being found again. Commonly defined as ‘freak-folk’ for its common fusion of classic folk with introspective and psychedelic spiritual lyricism, it was not hard for Tillman to get a swarming fan base purely for the music. Along with his signature hip-swinging and seductive live performances it is evident that Father John Misty is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Last time Tillman was in town (August,2013, Danforth Music Hall), inconsiderate jeering fans lead Tillman to abruptly lash out and storm off stage. This was met with a huge disappointment by the fans and even a sense of embarrassment and shame. Now, Tillman was back and in the anticipation of the show, you could overhear many referring back to this incident and debating how he may feel about it now and if he would even address it or not. However, the air of unevenness quickly dissipated in the roars and cheers of excitement as Tillman opened up with the first notes of the playful and springy ‘I’m Writing A Novel’.

Tillman announced that this tour would be a ‘solo variety tour’. Of course he would be playing solo on stage, but the ‘variety’ part was not quite understood until the opening act, comedian Kate Berlant, introduced herself and began her set. Now obviously it is not too common to have comedians open up for musicians, but it was an interesting change of pace and the quirky, pleasantly weird Berlant loosened everyone up and was able to draw out many good laughs and chuckles from the audience. This turned out to be a very appropriate introduction as we would later find out; Tillman too had a few jokes up his sleeve.

Tillman’s stage setup was all in Father John Misty taste; a single table with a bottle of wine and a glass, a coat rack with a single coat hanger, a rack of three guitars and a mascot rabbit’s head that he would walk onto stage with. If you were not familiar with Tillman’s work beforehand, you would probably find the whole setup to be ‘a little too much’. However, as the set progressed, you would get a clear picture of who Father John Misty is and why such a setup would not only be appealing to him, but suit the notoriously sharply dressed eccentric man.

With soft vocals that echoed and were sung loud and clear with true enthusiasm and talent, throughout the entire performance, Tillman showed off his quite impressive vocals range. Most of the tracks on the album are produced to be triumphantly orchestral, but their stripped-down live versions were just as, if not more, genuine. The sincerity that he brought along with each song was simply a joy to watch. Tillman’s ability to improvise over each song really brought out the character in him and the songs themselves; and not only were these improvisations extremely clever, but they were very funny as well.

Tillman’s ability to never take himself too seriously allowed him to connect with the audience on a very personal and relatable level. Tillman would consistently laugh and interact with the audience and never did it seem to interrupt the flow of the set. Every punch line that Tillman used to draw laughs hit hard and at times you wondered if you were watching emotionally heartfelt music or a comedy show. In the end, it was both. At one point, Tillman even brought out a large iPhone cut-out to play behind of, claiming that we did not have to worry about recording and putting him in a phone as he had already done so himself.

Not too many musicians see music or performance art as Tillman does. Although he does enjoy it immensely, as this is clearly evident in his reactions to each note he hit and to each crowd reaction, there is a certain tortured soul beneath it all. Is it because when he is addressing political and socio-economic issues that he is passionate about the crowd does not seem to care and simply laughs it off? Is it because his observations on our society is met with giggling complacency? Whatever it may be, you can tell that there is something on his mind. By the end of the set, Tillman decided to open up about his freak-out last August, and played one last song. He left the stage to a standing ovation but still, you could tell that there was still something bothering this fantastic and mesmerizing musician.

 

Review by: Joe Modzelewski
Photos by: Nathan Mills

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