Saturday, February 14, 2015

Father John Misty at the Bowery Ballroom

J. Tillman
Joshua Tillman, also known as J. Tillman and more recently as Father John Misty, grew up in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Early on, he had ambitions of becoming a pastor, but then religious rebellion set in. He began playing drums, then picked up the guitar at age 12, and began recording home demos of original songs at age 21 after relocating to Seattle, Washington. He launched a solo career as J. Tillman, performed locally and recorded more albums. Six years later, Tillman joined the local folk rock band Fleet Foxes as their drummer and stayed in the group for nearly four years. Upon returning to solo work, he relocated to Los Angeles, California, recording and performing under a new moniker. Father John Misty released a second album, I Love You, Honeybear, on February 10, 2015. At age 33, he and his wife now live in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In interviews, Tillman has stated that Father John Misty is a band name and that it is not a put-on persona of himself. At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, he was wrong on both counts. Father John Misty's concert was not about a band, it was centered around one person, and that person never seemed real, but rather an alter ego. Crooning, dancing and throwing himself on the floor several times, Tillman seemed to be overdoing the stage work for dramatic effect. He sang a set of odd songs, many with playful titles such as "This Is Sally Hatchet", "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow", "The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment", "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings", "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)", "Funtimes in Babylon", and "Now I'm Learning to Love the War." He sang eight of the 12 songs from the first album and 10 of the 11 songs on the newer album, plus a cover of Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man." The songs were mostly soft and slow, filled out with a lot of "woo-oh-oh-ooohs." Tillman sang soulfully, and this was the strong centerpiece of the performance. Well composed songs built nicely as his singing became more dynamic. The unanswered question that lingered was whether this was a middle-of-the-road pop rock concert or a campy lounge act.

Visit Father John Misty at www.fatherjohnmisty.com.