Father John Misty’s near 80-minute album Pure Comedy was always destined for a big world tour. After the success of I Love You, Honeybear and his Brit nomination combined with his notorious onstage antics lecturing his crowds about either rejected ‘burrito money’ or the state of the U.S. political or entertainment scene – this run of shows was not one I was about to miss. FJM (aka Josh Tillman) was now a bona fide celebrity, appearing on chat shows, co-writing Beyonce songs and getting into both the UK and US top 10s – he now needed to show he deserved to stay there. I travelled down to London’s Eventim Apollo to see his penultimate UK date of the tour.
He was supported at the Apollo by American psych-pop singer Weyes Blood. Playing five or six songs she was a smart choice to open up; chilled out tunes driven by an incredibly powerful voice, slide guitar, a drummer who was a doppelganger for Matty Healy and a wavy suit to boot. Weyes Blood had the crowd in the palm of her hand from just a couple of songs in, a highlight for me being ‘Seven Words’.
After a very fast changeover the opening graphics from the Pure Comedy video flashed up on the screen behind as Tillman strode out nonchalantly to centre stage, greeted the sold out Apollo crowd with a cool ‘Good evening,’ before entering into a note perfect rendition of the opening four tracks from Pure Comedy. If there’s one thing you noticed about Tillman’s musicianship that night it was the quality of his voice live; exchangeable throughout with his flawless recorded versions, he boomed out where he could over the crowd calling almost every song right back at him. Some of the most popular moments of the night though it must be said came from when he played the ILYHB tracks – Chateau Lobby and the eponymous track itself going down a treat with the London crowd.
Josh has said that the album was initially envisaged for the stage as an all-singing all-dancing musical, but in London it was a rather simple set up. Front and centre was clear save for Tillman and his mic – no one under any illusions as to who we were there to see. The huge screen behind him was used to great effect throughout – projecting scenes from the bizarre album cover as well as revolving hand-drawn mountain scenes. It was certainly minimalist staging compared to his plans for a West End Musical-esque show, but he made it seem small, stage presence in abundance whether he was playing guitar and singing behind the mic or dancing to his more lively numbers.
He is as flamboyant on stage as one might expect, at one stage tossing his guitar across the stage to a poor crew member who had to catch it coming in at high speeds, coming down into the crowd, literally dodging the spotlight – he was as playful as his off-stage persona would suggest. He didn’t talk too much to the crowd, but if he did it was usually to make some sharp quip back to an audacious heckler.
The show closed with a raucous rendition of The Ideal Husband, which now has a special place in my heart purely for the way Tillman flew round the stage as seemingly the entire auditorium hollered back ‘I came by at seven in the morning’ at its climax – the atmosphere was incredible, and a great way to end a show which was full of his hits, I didn’t leave feeling there was any glaring omission from the set list. On the contrary – Father John Misty had fully lived up to every sky-high expectation I had laid down. He’s reportedly releasing Album #4 in early 2018, and I thoroughly recommend getting yourself tickets for the tour which is sure to follow, I know I will be.
Pure Comedy album Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2QgZA6t1oFOjiJ59x7jrEI
Set-list from the night here: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/father-john-misty/2017/eventim-apollo-london-england-4be0b7d2.html