|Father John Misty | Memorial Ballroom | 01.17.15|
The Veteran's Memorial Ballroom in Sonoma looks like the home of a high school prom, charmingly old-school. I absolutely loved it. Intimacy was obvious as Father John sang to each of us this past Saturday. His mess of hair and beard have been trimmed, his passion for delivering musical novellas has not. Backed by six highly capable musicians, most of whom are multi-instrumentalists, they vibrantly brought to life the material off of I love You, Honeybear and Fear Fun.
Honeybear got things going with its warm sound, washing over the observant crowd were two twelve-string guitars. A fitting form for this song to take. A couple of tracks later they dove into "True Affection," a modern pop number that has a danceable snap to it. This synth-based hum was assisted by the use of four keyboardists. Following the glitz of true affection came one of my favorite numbers of the night, "When You're Smiling and Astride Me." This song has the power of a gospel hymn or R&B hit. His vocals were striking, making my weekend escape complete.
Few artists can deliver such a range of emotions, as well as genre shifting sound, like Father John and his musical holy-men achieved during the course of the show. They were fearless. New ensembles tend to play it safe, but not these seven men. When the twang of the fiddle situated itself in between the cries of a pedal steel guitar, "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow," became a hybrid of Workingman's Dead and the score to a Taratino film. "Ideal Husband," had a seasoned rock and roll sound, pushing into an edgier direction. Fifteen songs in came the single, "Bored in the USA." The audience was well aware of this track, perhaps they'd been fawning for it.
It was the next three tracks however, that pushed at the boundaries of whatever it was they were creating. The pedal steel came back for a great, "Funtimes in Babylon." I wrote a note at this point in the show, it read, The New Wilco. With all seven talents coalescing, they carved out their own inventiveness, framing the poetry of Tillman's words. "Now I'm Learning to Love the War," was an artistic arousal, one that will be nurtured and reshaped during this tour. When I heard him pronounce, 'fifteen year-olds, made from dinosaur bones,' I was thankful to be a part of the moment. Those words reminded me that time is short. The Finishing touches were put to us all during, "Holy Shit"—my other favorite of the night. The deep intensity of the song was amplified by the momentum of the band. They were more than able to build on the feelings of the lyrics.
The encore began with a Leonard Cohen cover and segued into a honkey tonk inspired "Tee-Pees 1-12." Father John had told the audience earlier that, "Everyman Needs a Companion," would show itself in the end. He was right, it closed the night. Misty's a performer who actually has something to say. His vocals are able to sooth as only a good voice can, emitting strength when needed. I left not needing more, yet I was still hungry. I was buzzing in satisfaction.
Set list: 1. I Love You Honeybear 2. Strange Encounter 3. Only Son of the Ladiesman 4. True Affection 5. When You're Smiling and Astride Me 6. The Night Josh Tillman came to our Apartment 7. I'm Writing a Novel 8. Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow 9. Misty's Nightmares 1&2 10. Chateau Lobby 11. Nancy From Now On 12. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sing 13. Sally Hatchet 14 . Ideal Husband 15. Bored in the USA 16. Funtimes in Babylon 17. Now I'm Learning to Love the War 18. Holy Shit Encore: 19. I'm Your Man (Cohen cover) 20. Tee-Pees 21. Everyman Needs a Companion