Father John Misty is the brainchild of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, a psychedelic shaman character created off the back of a trip in a ‘van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse’, leading to 2012’s Fear Fun. Fast-forward to 2015, Misty is touring his latest release, the excellent I Love You, Honeybear; but does his live performance match the strength of the album? We were at the Sheffield date to find out.
Opening with album title track ‘I Love You, Honeybear’. Father John Misty (Tillman) himself danced whimsically through his band members to the microphone, immediately offering a glimpse of his now signature moves; it’s worth mentioning that despite barely standing still, the track was almost pitch perfect to the recording. ‘Strange Encounter’ followed, displaying Misty at the more intense end of his spectrum, shouting the “The moment you came to, I swore I would change” refrain with restless hands waving. In ‘True Affection’ the tone changed with the song, one of the more subtle cuts from I Love You, Honeybear, the only fully electronic track of the night still somehow sat neatly in place despite the rockabilly-infused ‘Only Son Of a Ladies Man’ following.
A brief pause offered the first of Father John Misty’s deadpan insights, as he explained how Sheffield had ended up on the tour instead of Manchester because of the football fixtures, sharply ended as he asked “Do any of you actually care what I’m saying?” and raising the first laughter of the evening. So the tone was set, the next hour comprised of trademark humour mixed with the sardonic wit of his two albums to date. ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.’ was introduced as “a terrible song” and ‘Bored In the USA’, with its timid introduction, soon made way for laughter as Misty details the shortcomings of the American dream “They gave me a useless education, a sub-prime loan, on a craftsman home…”
Combining his electric dancing (which one crowd member described as “Like a six year old girl at a school disco”) with country and western-themed stories of a Canadian shaman, and moving to where “the milk and honey flow”, it’s easy to see how Misty has developed an enigmatic, borderline cult following that is obviously growing based on the significantly larger tour recently announced for 2016. Breakthrough single ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings’ provided a set highlight, as did the surprisingly aggressive passion of ‘The Ideal Husband’. Introducing his encore as “A break in the paradigm of regular music concerts’ much to the sold out room’s amusement, the set ended on Fear Fun opener ‘Every Man Needs a Companion’, bringing the setlist full circle.
There is much to be said of Father John Misty; is he a witty storyteller lamenting the forever-changing modern cultural landscape, or the poster-boy hipster shaman providing anthems for the disenchanted millennial? Either way, tonight’s sold-out show at the 1,200 capacity Plug was enough to suggest this is no flash in the pan and there is much more to come from the Father yet.