It’s clear his intention is to mock society, yet we are completely deceived, star-struck and left swooning. He presents himself to us, not as if he is the incarnate of Jesus Christ, but as one of the many rockstars of the past: Morrison, Moon, Jagger. Every fan is left eating out of the palm of his hand, like the sheep he deems us as throughout his song lyrics (whether we acknowledge that or not). But we love it, and he loves it, and for once, in a very, very long time, the 21st Century can claim for itself a rockstar of its own.
In the crowd at the Father John Misty concert at NXNE Portland’s festival, I felt myself falling victim to his charm, liquid vocals, and sexy dance moves. Already a loyal fan, mesmerized by his ability to “tell it how it is” in a very clever and provocative way, I was an easy victim for the authentically known Joshua Tillman. Standing at times a mere meter or two away from the musician when he pounced into the audience, I felt intimate with and exhilarated by Tillman. I watched as eager fans fondled his hair, and he in turn took their phones to film himself platformed on top of his audience.
Father John Misty played through most of the songs off his two-album discography, but each were unique, exciting, and laced with his noted humour. In “True Affection” one of the evening’s highlight moments, the lights blasted the fans, matching the electronic sounds in the song. Misty danced with the lights, giving us a full display of his classic, slinky moves as he darted across the stage. In “Bored in the USA,” he stripped down the lights and his instrumental accompaniment to give us an intimate moment while mocking modern American cliches.
Every person in the audience knew the lyrics to each song he played, and Misty encouraged the participation, much to the adoration of the concert goers. At times, he would change things up and motion for everyone to be silent. Everyone followed his command and waited for his next move. Once in a while he took a moment to talk to the audience. He responded with “I love you too’s” to screaming women, but also asked if anyone had been forced to come to his show and actually hated him. He smirked during his own lyrics, and laughed at us when we did the same.
When Father John Misty graced us with a two-song encore, the concert concluded on a classic Misty jam: “Ideal Husband.” Not only known as one of his most popular and rock inspired songs, Tillman is famous for humping the stage, throwing his mic stand, and melodramatically falling to the ground during this specific tune. He gave us this iconic performance, and did not disappoint. Nor did he leave us thinking that the act was choreographed (even if we had seen him do similar things in other shows).
Take a look at some really raw footage of the Rockville native doing what he does best at a New York show.
From the moment of tension before the Father took the stage, to the very end of the encore, every person in the festival was cast under the spell of Father John Misty. His level of performance was world class and as you grooved in the audience, you felt as if you knew the man, that he was having a conversation with you. The band backing him kept the music tight and spontaneous to fit Tillman’s every move. He fit the mould of a rockstar, and embraced his position as such. His clean cut suit, long scraggly hair and bushy beard, made you look at him as a hipster, but love him as a show man. Unlike most performers from the last twenty years, Tillman wasn’t afraid to get close to his fans, drink tequila on stage and dance any way he so pleased.
We may all have been putty in his hands, but we accepted it as the sign of a great performer. After all, the world has missed the rockstar that both men and women swoon over. For Father John Misty, he has bottled that musical gold, and taken us along for the journey.