Josh Tillman is a Rock Star: Father John Misty, Live at the Village Underground, East London
Don’t you just love it when you go to a gig that is so much better than you ever expected it would be?
Father John Misty played an incredible show at The Village Underground in Shoreditch last night. Even if they weren’t converts before they arrived, everyone in the audience left a believer in Josh Tillman…
If you haven’t come across Father John Misty before, it’s probably worth establishing what we know about him so far…
Father John Misty is the nom de plume of Josh Tillman, the former Fleet Foxes drummer. Tillman grew up in a strict, religious household, but at 21 years old escaped to Seattle in order to play music. He gave a demo tape to Seattle-based indie guru Damien Jurado, who took him on tour. Tillman dated the sister of Fleet Foxes leader Robin Pecknold, and when the Foxes’ drummer’s chair became available he stood in for four successful years, leaving in 2012.
Since then, Tillman has released two albums under the Father John Misty name, 2013’s “Fear Fun”, and this year, the excellent “I Love You, Honeybear”. There is also the small matter of eight solo albums released prior to and during his Fleet Foxes stint.
OK, that’s enough of an introduction. What is special about Tillman is not just the voice (rich and honeyed), the songs (varied and intelligent) or the terrific six piece band (also varied in appearance, but flawless in execution), it’s the charisma.
Tillman is a natural born performer, and held the audience in the palm of his hand, from the opening song “I Love You, Honeybear” in which he immediately reached out to a girl in the crowd and sang to her, falling to his knees like a man possessed, all the way to the encore which featured a winning cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” and closing anthem “Everyman Needs A Companion” which transcended it’s “Fear Fun” LP version.
The sound of Father John Misty is a little Fleet Foxy, especially on snappily-titled single “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”, but the overall feel is more like early Elton John (in a good way) with added funny, clever lyrics.
The whiff of pretension that comes from a back story including his “having an epiphany, sat naked in a tree in Big Sur after ingesting mushrooms” (according to a recent article in Uncut magazine) or the slightly ridiculous PR blurb for the latest LP including a “Dioramic, Meta-Musical Funtime gatefold jacket with pop up sleeve” is immediately cast aside as Tillman reveals himself to be charming and funny.
It seems strange that a man who can bear his soul so honestly in his songs can enjoy teasing us with such fables, smoke and mirrors. At least, until you remember that’s what Dylan used to do too.
You may also have been forgiven for being slightly apprehensive as to how dynamic Tillman would be live in concert. His former band, Fleet Foxes, sang gorgeous harmonies but were pretty static on stage, perhaps worried about tripping over their beards.
But we needn’t have worried. Tillman spent the evening practicing some remarkable dance moves, like a Laurel Canyon Jarvis Cocker. He knew it too. After some frenetic dancing he picked up his guitar and remarked “I’ve got the acoustic guitar back on – it’s okay, we’re all back in our safe place now…”
Tillman is a man with genuine star quality. He might have a self-deprecating manner, telling us he’ll be playing “hit after hit after chorus-less radio-less hit” but the performance is one from a man who believes he is destined for greater things than a midweek show at a cool club in Shoreditch. He jumped into the crowd, swapped jokes with the audience and even took a phone and recorded himself singing the most affecting ballad, then deftly popped the phone in his pocket, pretending to steal it.
Who knew a member of Fleet Foxes would be such a Rock Star Sex God?! Remember the name. Whether it’s Josh Tillman, Father John Misty or something else, the man is a star, and one day the rest of the world is going to catch up. There are two nights coming up at The Shepherds Bush Empire in October and I strongly recommend you get a ticket.