FATHER JOHN MISTY // USHER HALL, EDINBURGH

FATHER JOHN MISTY BRING'S HIS 'PURE COMEDY' TOUR TO SCOTLAND TO PLAY SHOWS IN EDINBURGH AND GLASGOW

FATHER JOHN MISTY PERFORMING AT EDINBURGH'S USHER HALL - 01/11/2017
PICTURE BY: RORY BARNES PHOTOGRAPHY

★★★★☆

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.

Aesthetically, the band seemed quintessentially American through attire, poise and even in terms of instrumentation by the use of Slide Guitars, Hollow Bodies and a Rhodes piano. Despite this it felt like tonight's venue was an obvious location for the band to perform their 21-song set. I think it's down to the fact that Tillman's songs and style are in some places wholly British. The comedy in his new album seems to come from a very Philip Larkin-esque definition of the concept, by nihilistically dealing with the problems of the modern age through compositions that take more than a little inspiration from classic British songwriters (Elton John, Paul McCartney etc..) An obvious country twang is apparent on tracks such as 'The Memo' and infusions of Psychedelic Rock come to the surface throughout the set. It's the juxtopositon of this vintage sound and aesthetic being used to deal with today's issues in a very post-modern way that provides Tillman with his uniquity and helps him to stand out as an acoustic singer/songwriter. Lines such as "Eventually the dying man takes his final breath, But first checks his news feed to see what he's 'bout to miss" (Ballad of the Dying Man) best embody Tilman's views and sense of humour on his new record and in his performance. Tillman seems to unite people by using sentiments of alienation in an oddly compassionate way as a musical oxymoron. The lengthy set also leaned heavily on tracks from his previous album 'I Love You Honey Bear' which focused on more introspective themes concerning Tillman's personal life such as his relationships in the modern age.

All in all, the set varied and yet felt balanced. Final song 'The Ideal Husband' provided an upbeat and audience pleasing ending to the song as Tillman launched himself across the barrier and into the sea of passionate fans. Perhaps the set could have done with more moments like this to create a counterpoint with the large amounts of mid-tempo ballads. Either way the main attraction is Tillman's wit and charming yet cold on look on the modern world which we were not left malnourished of.

FATHER JOHN MISTY'S TOUR CONTINUES:

Thurs November 2nd 2017: GLASGOW O2 Academy
Sat November 4th 2017: CARDIFF Great Hall
Sun November 5th 2017: MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Tues November 7th 2017: LONDON Eventim Apollo
Wed November 8th 2017: LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thurs November 9th 2017: BRIGHTON Dome
Sat November 11th 2017: PARIS LE TRIANON
Sun November 12th 2017: BRUSSELS Ancienne Belgique
Mon November 13th 2017: UTRECHT Tivoli Vredenburg - Grote Zaal
Tues November 14th 2017: BERLIN Huxley's
Thurs November 16th 2017: MILAN Fabrique
Sat November 18th 2017: BARCELONA Razzmatazz
Sun November 19th 2017: MADRID La Riviera
Mon November 20th 2017: LISBON Coliseu Dos Recreios

REVIEW BY: STRUAN NELSON
PHOTOS BY: RORY BARNES PHOTOGRAPHY