I have fallen in love with two types of performers, the ones who put their inside out and bleed over the tracks, the Elliott Smith and Cat Power type, the so-called confessional songwriters for whom it is so easy to think that every word is authentic and autobiographical, and the other ones, the performers who build a character, the Nick Cave and Tom Waits type, with a mythology which blends so much with them that you can’t never decipher the myth from the real persona.
Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty these days, certainly want to belong to the second category, he has even changed his name to embrace the idea of myth and uses it all-set long, becoming this incredible character animated by a drunk energy, dancing his heart out or contorting his long thin body in more positions than an acrobatic dancer. Who could have known that Tillman was such a showman, such a lively performer? He was repeatedly kneeling down, using his arms as big extensions of his body to produce interpretative dances, he was falling down on the floor, leaning over the crowd and touching as many people as possible. He is a generous character and takes good care of his adoring audience, and he makes sure that everyone will get a piece of him at one point.
Tillman was doing a show at the Glasshouse in Pomona to occupy his time between the two Coachella weekends, and he had a few good things to say about the big festival. That’s the thing with Tillman, you get the full package, beside the music which I like a lot, there are the hip moves, the theatrical drama, and the sarcastic humor between the songs. He didn’t start it right away, but mid-show, he became hilarious.
At the beginning, he and his six musicians were playing many of the songs off his last album ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, ‘Strange Encounter’, ‘True Affection’, ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apt.’, in front of a read curtain with a giant neon light reading ‘no photography’, and he was moving like a sexy beast, ecstatically dancing with the mic, offering himself to the crowd at the first song. He was almost moonwalking like Michael Jackson or was he twisting his body like Madonna in her early videos? It looks like Father John Misty wants to be many things but his own persona too, so he was alternating the crazy moves with more-grounded numbers when he was playing his guitar and then looked like a young Barry Gibbs (the hairdo will do it) singing at the top of a mountain. ‘I want to dedicate this one to everyone front row’ he said before ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’… and his romance with the front-row young girls couldn’t have been more intense. Father John Misty was still very serious at this point, but after the delicious and light-headed ‘Nancy From Now On’, things changed, he became more talkative, sharing his Coachella experience: ‘They should get rid of the bands at Coachella, and let the people take selfies on ecstasy, but they should still call it Coachella’… after someone asked him how was Drake (‘he sucked!’), he dedicated his next song to the ‘emotional rapper’, and talked about the narcissistic nature of musicians like him, checking Twitter and finding out that Chris Brown had walked away from FJM’s set in Coachella… ‘Fuck Twitter!’ ‘I don’t know why you applause but I take this!’
The conversation had started and his deadpan humor and sarcasm almost punctuated each of the following songs… He read ‘Coachella couldn’t handle you’ off a handmade sign, he received flowers, well, fake ones, and the show was turning part musical part standup comedy, and I still couldn’t decide who the real J Tillman was. When he made fun of the encore and what kind of surprise it could possibly hold after 30 or so shows of the same kind, someone screamed ‘That’s why Brown doesn’t like you’ and Tillman directly clutched with a fantastic version of ‘Bored in the USA’, shining under the cover of irony and welcoming a complete participation of the laughing crowd… ‘Any fans of Leonard Cohen?’ he asked before covering ‘I Am Your Man’… ‘not for long!’ Sarcasm was culminating as the set ended with ‘Everyman Needs a Companion’… ‘Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones/Couldn’t give me a myth/So I had to write my own’…
I realize I have barely talked about the music, which he called ‘weird ass country’, but I have to browse his entire catalogue because of powerful and uplifting songs like ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, ‘Funtimes in Babylon’, or even ‘I am writing a Novel’ which had this curious Cash bluesy vibe. Whatever the tone, the irony, the fervor, the self-loathing, he managed to get it right each time, whereas all this theatricality could have easily sunk into gimmickry.
And at the end of the show, something quite unusual happened, he jumped in the pit, making sure to shake everyone’s hands, signing vinyl, posing for selfies,… people were rushing at the front, I got crushed, and I wasn’t even really trying to fight, but when Tillman arrived at my level, I saw his blue eyes, his hand reaching mine for a frank handshake and I heard a ‘Thank you for coming’… wow, what was the myth he was trying to build? There was no more myth or irony, just a genuine and memorable moment between an artist and his enthusiastic fans.
weaving a fairy tale for us to get lost in
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2)
“I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music