Father John Misty by now needs little introduction. After four critically acclaimed albums in just under six years, Josh Tillman, whose stage moniker is known just as much for his off-stage words as his sarcastic and often self-deprecating lyrics, has made a name for himself. But with his latest album, God’s Favorite Customer, he focused on more personal matters. Delivered in that great Harry Nilsson meets Randy Newman style, the bite was still there, but it was more focused at The Anthem on Thursday.
For instance, there have always been questions about God and human nature in Father John Misty records. As a son of evangelical missionaries, Josh Tillman’s early life was steeped in the concept of Christianity. And some of the best Father John Misty lines come out of the questioning of that life. But on “God’s Favorite Customer” from the new LP of the same name (published on June 1 by Sub Pop), the chorus which includes the lines “Speak to me / Won’t you speak, sweet angel? / Don’t you remember me? / I was God’s favorite customer” seemed to have a new weight from previous work.
At The Anthem, the man who grew up just around the bend in Rockville, Maryland, brought with him a stage full of brilliance.
The set opened to a dark stage with smooth jazzy horns as Josh and company took the stage and drifted into the strummed acoustic guitar of “Nancy from Now On” from Father John Misty’s debut, Fear Fun. The green and yellow light illuminating a large band — piano/keyboards, two guitars, bass, drums, and an orchestra of strings and horns. And the band was tight, providing a thick backdrop to the poignant, thought-provoking and sometimes snarky lyrics.
Father John Misty strummed and strutted through the first half of his set, but during “Mr. Tillman,” he dropped the guitar for a bit, walking about the stage, dressed all in white, with mic in hand. He got closer and closer to audience, and the crowd loved every minute of it. Josh threw himself into the performance, and you could feel energy being shaken off like the white suit blazer he shed as the set progressed.
There were a lot of highlights, but my personal favorite moment was during one of the best songs on the new LP, “Date Night,” when the back of the stage was lit with animated images of Father John Misty riding in an El Camino through the desert and dancing in a trenchcoat and sunglasses with the stage flashing red and yellow.
Watch a video of “Date Night” by Father John Misty on YouTube:
Other favorites included during the brilliant “Bored in the USA.” Audience members took over parts of the song where canned laughs were played in the background, as Father John Misty growled the lines, “Keep my prescriptions filled / And now I can’t get off.” And while the band performed “Pure Comedy” from the album of the same name, after the line, “And they get terribly upset / When you question their sacred texts / Written by woman-hating epileptics,” he added: “Oh, it gets worse” — which made the crowd howl.
Father John Misty closed the set with “I Love You, Honey Bear,” as he walked with the mic stand across his shoulders at times, crooning to the audience. The band played a great encore of “The Palace,” “Real Love Baby,” “Holy Shit,” and finally “The Ideal Husband” (another personal favorite) before leaving the stage for the evening.
A truly amazing performance! Father John Misty continues his tour through North America and then it’s off to Europe in the fall. Check out more here.
According to Setlist.fm, the set included:
Here are some pictures of Father John Misty performing at The Anthem on August 2, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.