Since Josh Tillman's departure from Fleet Foxes in 2012 the singer/songwriter has achieved widespread success under the moniker of 'Father John Misty', receiving almost universal acclaim and a dedicated cult following. Tillman's career so far has been enduringly prolific, releasing music with various acts and working on various solo projects. It begs the question of what Tilman brought to the table which led to the success of Father John Misty. As an acoustic singer/songwriter Tilman faces obvious difficulties when it comes to innovating his craft. However, the release of his new album 'Pure Comedy' provides an exception to the rule by amalgamating modern ideas with vintage aesthetics. Tonight, Tilman brings these songs to the Usher Hall.
The Usher Hall seemed like a fitting venue to accommodate Tillman's classic style of pop balladry. Himself and his six-piece band certainly looked dressed for the occasion as they casually waltz on stage in blazers, ties and shiny shoes as they start the night with Tillman's first social exposition: the title track of his new album, 'Pure Comedy'. A subdued audience where clearly attending to listen and observe intently. Tillman didn't seem to waste a single sentence by masterfully singing one line after the next whilst putting character and emotion into his unique style of phrasing, a look of complete sincerity accompanied every word. On-stage visuals projected on to the white backdrop complimented the set extremely well, especially during new album cut "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution" whereby a giant animation of a rotating globe slowly froze over to match the songs lyrical content. Stage lighting was used to great effect, often shining coloured light outwards so that Tillman and his band became illuminated shadows on stage, used with particular excellence during "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" which created an eery on-stage ambience.
In terms of stagecraft, Tillman adopted a frantic and flamboyant approach. Jim Morrison-esque swinging hips along with swooping back bends and aggressive mic stand throwing helped to present Tillman's Father John Misty as a larger than life figure, a rare feat in today's music culture. Even when an acoustic guitar kept him set in place he managed to become an entertaining watch. As the intensity of the music increased, so did his stage demeanor with violent bursts of energy erupting towards the end of the set during songs such as "When You're Smiling and Astride Me". Unfortunately, the same energy was not emitted by Tillman's backing band. They seemed to stare blankly into space without presenting much will of wanting to be on stage. This caused Tillman's own performance to seem forced at times and the set could have been improved if he was able to bounce off the performance of his other band members. Tillman's interaction with the crowd was also minimal as he surprisingly seemed to be a man of few words once the music ended, possibly out of anxiety or arrogance.