Joshua Tillman, more commonly known as Father John Misty, is a special breed.
He is an American folk singer-songwriter on the surface, but at second glance he quickly unveils his nuanced presence as a stage performer.
He is passionate, but suave. Kind, but critically-aware. He attracts followers off the cuff, but still on the cusps of personal transformation. Father John Misty performs both his music and improvised monologues with a cunning punch.
Tillman took the stage at the Orpheum this past Sunday, Sept. 20, in a zealous flux, as he ignited the crowd with his song “I Love You, Honeybear.” A heart-shaped neon sign with the words “No Photography” flashed in sync with a seamless display of lights, setting a warm, exciting mood augmented by Tillman’s entrancing and clear voice.
A major component of Tillman’s performances revolve around being in love. Tillman has spoken about how difficult it is to create music about love without falling into a pitfall of “self-pity” and “sentimental banality.”
But the authenticity Tillman strives to bring to his fans was apparent in the performance, as his music and presence was saturated in unadulterated passion and desire. Tillman was not afraid to put the audience in the mood.
“I think now’s a good a time as any to get totally, unsolicitedly intimate with one another,” he said.
Tillman’s ability to recollect personal moments of love and intimacy had the entire crowd entranced and even lascivious.
Perhaps Tillman’s most charming moments were his intermittent exchanges with the audience. At some moments, he held hands with those in the front row. He also had the audience laughing at unabashed, cynical jokes cracked between sets.
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At one point, an audience member held out the gift of a lemon that Tillman graciously accepted, for lemons keep his man bun “smooth and zeitgeisty.” His capacity for relating to every audience member simultaneously made for an exceptional display.
The larger part of Tillman’s performance was high-energy, but more than halfway through the performance, he transitioned into a slower pace, beginning with his song “Bored In The USA.” His cunning lyrics, however, carried enough depth and richness to keep the audience completely engaged.
All in all, Tillman put on a great musical performance. But it is essential to keep in mind that music is the vehicle that drives his deepest, inner musings. His clear comfort with shamelessly sharing life experiences, dreams and failures — both through his music and in casual conversation with a large audience — set his show apart.