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Father John Misty At Walt Disney Concert Hall, Friday, February 25th, 2022

Father John Misty
Father John Misty

“It’s too much, he has his musicians and there is the orchestra, it’s simply too much!” said a guy talking to his female friend while exiting the Walt Disney Concert Hall after the concert. It was just one opinion but the thunder of applause I heard after each song Father John Misty performed with the LA Philharmonic told a very different story. I was probably standing next to the only guy complaining at the end of the show, the only guy who may have preferred a stripped-down performance by a sad boy playing an acoustic guitar – and in this case, this show was definitively not for him – but it was obviously not an opinion shared by the audience. Personally, I like my live music big, and I truly enjoyed the sweeping orchestration and the many layers of instruments from strings to cello to horns to keys to harp, at the top of the guitars and drums: With the eight musicians of band and the LA Philharmonic, the stage was a full house, and it was glorious. Call it bombastic, pompous, or even pretentious, I will call it rewarding.

It was indeed a beautiful night of music in a majestic venue, a highly anticipated night by all the fans of Father John Misty, and some of them had even dressed up for the occasion. First, it’s easy to understand why this format fitted Father John Misty’s work so well. The music had never been so buoyant and alive and many of the songs boomed to euphoric heights for the public’s great joy. How many times do you hear applause and cheering during a song? It never happens but it happened several times last night. Of course, his irreverent lyrics would often clash with the solemnity of the occasion, but it made the night even more interesting.

Many people thought that it was the perfect occasion to premiere the songs of his new album with lush and wide orchestration – after all, “Funny Girl” and its soundtrack grandiosity sounded absolutely made for the occasion – but everyone was apparently wrong. They only played two songs from the upcoming “Chloe and the Next 20th Century,” so Father John Misty may not have been ready to perform these brand-new ones live. In any case, the evening was far from being a disappointment, the cuts from his back catalog were pure crowd pleasure, and besides the two new ones, songs from his four previous albums were fleshed out with the professionalism of the LA Philharmonic.

I have seen Father John Misty perform several times before, even when he was just going under his real name, Josh Tillman, and played a solo set on acoustic guitar in a small record shop in Echo Park in 2011… Looking back at this last decade, from Origami Vinyl to Walt Disney Concert Hall, the journey looks quite impressive since this humble show. Tillman didn’t say much but he seemed to be quite satisfied to be playing in this immaculate and superb venue. “This is the big reveal,” he said before starting the show.

However, it was probably a case of venue influencing the performance: you cannot be a real rock star in a prim concert hall. I have seen Tillman do the most extravagant stage antics, but last night was probably the most sober performance I have witnessed. He alternated between calm walks on the stage, to a rather static standing position behind the mic, sometimes playing a guitar, when he was not sitting behind a piano. He only became a bit agitated during a few songs, but it was a far cry from the violent moves and gesticulations I was used to. If the performance was restrained, Tillman’s appearance could not have been more serious: a simple suit, a trimmed beard, and a shaved head. But you don’t necessarily need wild stage antics: thanks to the impeccable acoustic of the venue, the music was massive and the energy in the room was palpable.

After the beloved “I Love You, Honeybear,” the horns became particularly brilliant during “Hangout at the Gallows,” when the entire orchestra swelled the song to new heights, but the trumpets shone even more during the vague Mariachi vibe solo of “Chateau Lobby #4.” Meanwhile. the crowd completely lost it during “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow.”

The entire night, Tillman’s bright voice was way above the music, clear and reaching emotional heights during “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All.” The songs had never sounded more cinematic, from the Harry Nilsson-esque vibe of “Nancy from Now On,” to the more sentimental love songs like “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.” Numbers like “The Palace” were poignant moments of strings and keys, and maybe touching enough to make him slightly mess up the lyrics at one point… it’s true that his songs are extremely wordy, his lines are often strange social commentaries or untamed accumulations of words and ideas that would require a day of head scratching to unfold all their meanings. The new one “Q4” had a very hooky chorus and sounded like a ‘70s song with harp-strings pastoral arrangement, while “Funny Girl” had this big vintage ballroom feel, chiming like an opening for the Academy Awards. The long-winded lyrics of some songs, all crowded in the same music line, could become almost conversational as it was the case for “Pure Comedy” that he performed with a crooner quality: “Oh comedy, their illusions they have no choice but to believe.” After the triumphant horns and delicate keys of the uplifting “God’s Favorite Customer,” imploring God’s good grace, the orchestra horns and strings growled to triumphant heights during the holy war of “Holy Shit.”

There was minimal talking between songs, although he mentioned mushrooms and the fact that some of us may not have been out for a long time. The encore happened without the orchestra, and Tillman and his band surely rocked a bit more with “Total Entertainment Forever” but especially with “Date Night,” during which Tillman let the wild Misty show up a bit more with a few dance moves.

Fans can expect the announcement of a tour after the release of “Chloe and the Next 20th Century” in April, but this night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall was just special. It was a one-time experience for the numerous die-hard fans whose only regret was to have to politely sit down during the entire performance.

Setlist
I Love You, Honeybear (I Love You, Honeybear)
Hangout at the Gallows (God’s Favorite Customer)
Mr. Tillman (God’s Favorite Customer)
Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All (God’s Favorite Customer)
Nancy From Now On (Fear Fun)
Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
When You’re Smiling and Astride Me (I Love You, Honeybear)
Q4 (Live debut) (Chloe and the Next 20th Century)
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings (Fear Fun)
Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution (Pure Comedy)
Ballad of the Dying Man (Pure Comedy)
Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow (I Love You, Honeybear)
The Palace (God’s Favorite Customer)
Funny Girl (Live debut) (Chloe and the Next 20th Century)
Pure Comedy (Pure Comedy)
God’s Favorite Customer (God’s Favorite Customer)
Holy Shit (I Love You, Honeybear)

Encore:
Funtimes in Babylon (Fear Fun)
Total Entertainment Forever (Pure Comedy)
Date Night (God’s Favorite Customer)

Photos and films were not allowed inside the concert hall, but I saw a few people doing the same thing: sneakily taking a few pics, and I did the same …

 

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