Running an hour behind schedule, when Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, took the stage – finally – he thanked everyone for their patience. Explaining that the band had left Lollapalooza in Chicago later than expected, most of the audience had likely arrived to the venue before them. Dressed in a suit to make up for it, all was soon forgiven once he launched into the sweet croons of “Funtimes in Babylon”. Making his folk songs larger than life, the free-spirited singer owned the stage and the microphone – right down to the mic stand, which was often spun around or lifted above his head. His signature hip shaking and gyrating rarely let up for the hour he was on stage. While he took up his guitar by fourth song, “I’m Writing A Novel”, Tillman proceeded to be no less animated.
From his attempt to reach out and touch a girl’s hand in the front row “You’re so far away!” to his comments that the band is actually only popular in Toronto – they have to bus in convicts in every other stop – Tillman was hilarious. A true showman, his on-stage theatrics were just nearly overdone at times. Also a ladies’ man, he seemed to be constantly barraged with marriage proposals and calls to take his clothes off. It was actually uncomfortable and hindering to the set’s progression at times.
With song requests also being shouted out from the men in attendance any time there was a pause between songs, there eventually came the inevitable shout for “Free Bird”. Tillman’s bitingly sarcastic and cynical nature truly emerged, as he commented “one day I’m going to fuck with an audience and give them a perfect verbatim rendition of “Free Bird”. Which the band then actually did while Tillman sat on the edge of the stage and just chuckled, “I just realized that Free Bird is actually the shit!” Attempting to move on, certain hecklers couldn’t give up on the joke that was now way past its prime, shouting out for the song again. Tillman, blatantly frustrated requested that the audience boo him loudly before asking the guy to “actually just shut the fuck up”.
After the heartfelt “Everyman Needs a Companion”, their set ended with the rocking “Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings”. The guitars were off the charts, the sound nearly overtook the soundsystem at times until the combustible red backlit inferno went dark and the lights cut out, signaling it was time for the band to exit the stage.
After a lengthy reprieve, Tillman returned to the stage, bottle of alcohol and cigarette in hand. Picking up his guitar, he professed that over the course of 1.5 years of touring he felt like he was losing the personal connection to his songs, giving them away to a different audience every night. Feeling alienated from his own songs, he wanted people to know that the cynicism and his overall act is not a schtick – it’s him, it’s all from his heart. Conversations fluttering around the crowd, the audience took it upon themselves to shush the talkers for Tillman to continue. Unfortunately at this point, one too many heckling comments sent him over the edge. Now officially far past his breaking point, he smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage.
Unsure what to make of this surreal experience, the audience shared a look of collective dumbfoundedness, until the security guards began ushering people out and the house lights came back on. We had to accept that he wasn’t coming back and leave into the night with a sour taste in our mouths – and a sad way to bring an end to the band’s year and a half of touring. It’s a shame that this departure will likely overtake people’s memories of what was otherwise an incredible performance.
Held up at the border, the openers, Minneapolis-based quartet Night Moves, took the stage 45 minutes late. Starting with “Country Queen”, from 2012’s Colored Emotions, their spacey electric soul was fueled by fuzzy vocals and hazy guitars, with the drums dominating their sound. The drummer also pumped out synthy beats from the laptop beside his kit. The four-piece weren’t the most dynamic of performers but songs like “Our Friends” were generally fun and catchy enough to carry their set.
Unfortunately, midway through their set, vocalist John Pelant’s deeper twangy voice transitioned into a falsetto and the remaining songs crossed the threshold over into a style that more than slightly resembled bad 80’s lounge music. Already antsy for the headliner, the crowd’s attention began to dwindle during the extended instrumentals that inevitably ensued. Their set nearing the 45-minute mark with “Headlights”, before they completely overstayed their welcome, they finished with the groovy title track “Colored Emotions” and said good night.
Father John Misty