The spotlight’s not for sharing at an epic indie revival that gives cynicism its own Hollywood romance
Seven years after railing against the stupidity of entertainment, Father John Misty has never been more entertaining. An onstage meltdown at XPNFest became 2017’s Pure Comedy – an epic of irony and angst that saw Josh Tillman swallowed whole into his own alter ego like Bo Burnham with a brass band budget. Now chasing Chloë And The Next 20th Century out of lockdown, the FJM found wheeling the mic stand around Hammersmith Apollo is the character reborn again: louder, grander, more confident, and here for a good time.
Whatever roots Tillman once had in soft-shuffled folk are now tangled up in something bigger and ballsier. Flecks of Nilsson, Nick Drake and Randy Newman still soften the AM radio edges of tracks like ‘Nancy From Now On’, ‘Funny Girl’ and ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, but it’s the brassier late-night lounge hits that now let him cut the loosest.
Opening big on ‘The Next 20th Century’, wry cinematic powerhouses like ‘When You’re Smiling And Astride Me’, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ and ‘Chloë’ are made from ballrooms like the Apollo. Polished to a sheen, sprawling odes to existential angst and content nausea and Val Kilmer playing Batman ring through a nine-piece band and Tillman’s sermon-style theatrics.
Really amazing show in London last night after a fantastic run through Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris! 🔥. UK people get ready 🔥 📸 ig-greg.endorfit pic.twitter.com/hz57GJ9mOQ— Father John Misty Can Flub (@CanFlub) March 9, 2023
“This song is all about a guy getting out of prison and getting some bad advice in a Hollywood deli…” he deadpans, only missing a dry martini and an ashen cigarette as someone in the crowd starts cheering too soon. “You can’t possibly know what song I’m talking about,” he snaps back. “All of my songs about that kind of thing…”.
Dedicating ‘Goodbye Mr. Blue’ to someone’s recently deceased pet pug, Harper (“death is death”), Tillman has never looked as comfortable on stage. Now channelling Nick Cave and Freddie Mercury both as he wraps the mic cable around his neck and cuts janky silhouettes out of jazz steps, Tillman dances like everyone’s watching.
Ending big on ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, the encore comes back even stronger with a cover of ‘Pretty Woman’ and a string of acoustics (‘Buddy’s Rendezvous’, ‘Real Love Baby’, ‘Holy Sh*t’) before round housing the crowd with raucous noise rock closers ‘Hangout At The Gallows’ and ‘The Ideal Husband’.
Climbing off stage to join the crowd as the band freewheels through the finale – horns, slide guitars, organs and orchestra wailing – Father John Misty is here for the entertainment.