I spent much of my formidable years either learning things the hard way (constantly putting my foot in my mouth) or finding an escape immersed in the culture of live shows and watching movies on repeat. A benefit of working at a video rental store with the freedom of up to six free movies a night.
Needless to say, I was obsessed with an ever-growing aspiration to possibly make movies myself one day. That objective vanished at some point during college, but my love and appreciation did not, though, and thrives in much of the visual art I create today. I spent a little more time than usual these past few days reflecting on the experience I witnessed this past week when Father John Misty rolled through town to play the Chicago Theatre.
Many of those teenage feelings I had when experiencing some of the greatest films made slapped me in the face throughout his performance. For me, the fairest assessment I have on Josh Tillman’s catalogue of albums under the pseudonym Father John Misty would be to call him a Scorsese of his own respected medium. His music transcends the standards most of us listeners look for and is a sprawling oasis concealed within this sometimes vapidly dry era of copycats. His visually dense lyrics allow the imagination to run wild and help me escape into these volumes of stories and characters while musically leaving me in this overwhelmingly sense of joy and timelessness.
The additional sentiment I have and hear when listening to his albums is that overwhelmingly nostalgic feeling from those experiences when my dad impressed upon me to listen to an album that would “change my life” and then years later appreciating it and that heartwarming gratitude for what my dad was sharing with me. That's Father John Misty for me! Each album self-contained in their own right open to listeners’ individual interpretations of their songs but united together in a live performance, it's a resounding, audible nirvana and that’s how I would best describe Thursday night’s performance.
Honestly if that were my full review of the show that would be enough, but that’s just one layer of awesome I took away from Father’s (as adoringly referred to by the opener Suki Waterhouse) performance.
Choice in venue for this tour may have very much been a conscious decision as its historic ambiance lent itself beautifully to the band's presentation of an 8-plus piece jazz band with Tillman at the helm. The lighting and stage curtain literally made the show magical. Sitting down in a theatre with so much history and watching the band bring these songs to life, this vivid journey of our fictionalized hero, Father John Misty, made so much more sense to me and my feelings grew from just an appreciation into an emotional investment in Tillman’s work.
I felt very connected to him as well, as his casual honesty was shared in between songs with such humility and vulnerability. His narration of some of the songs unfolded a grander picture of some of the simplest things he experienced as an artist during his own period of pandemic based isolation. His casualness with the audience was so refreshing as he shook hands both at the start and the end of the show and joked, "Father John Misty's Butt Hurts in bold Chicago Gothic Font," in reference to him being sore from doing lunges. As I started this review off, the evening left me in that state, wanting to rewatch all my favorite films by a specific director, or in this case, re-listen to my favorite albums and tracks.
I Love You, Honeybear
Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Nancy From Now On
Goodbye Mr Blue
Total Entertainment Forever
Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution
Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
Please Don’t Die
When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
The Ideal Husband
I’m Writing a Novel
Real Love Baby