It’s not often that I regret going to a show, especially when the artists performing have both recently released excellent albums that I’ve had on steady rotation, but as I reflect on last night, I have to admit I’d rather have the money I spent than the memories I made. Now, that’s not to say it was a bad show. The majority of those around me seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. I just couldn’t get over a few early disappointments.
The first of which was that Father John Misty would be performing an acoustic set. Having seen Youth Lagoon before, Father John (aka Joshua Tillman) was the main reason I made in down to the Bluebird. So when he took the stage with nothing more than a guitar and an attitude, my excitement level dropped as the temperature in the front of the venue rose. Tillman was only a couple songs in before I found myself incredibly irritable while I made my way from the hotbox up front to the cooler area by the bar.
Cold beer in hand, I relaxed a bit and was able to reflect on why I was not enjoying the performance. First off, I was expecting a full band. Second, I was expecting Tillman to use that incredible voice of his to sing songs, not to spew out a never ending supply of condescending jokes that were only half funny, half the time. I realize when you’re performing a solo set, it’s fun to create some banter with the audience, and in the beginning the ‘I’m an asshole’ schtick was amusing — like when someone yelled out “louder!” to which he replied “it’s acoustic motherfucker, I can’t turn it up!”, or when he announced “it’s great to be here, wherever here it” before opening the set with “Funtimes in Babylon” — but overall, this ongoing elitist persona got in the way of the music, with only a handful in the crowd even bothering to pretend to laugh by the end of the set.
I became a fan of Tillman based on his debut as Father John Misty. Fear Fun is an album full of dark humour that should have prepared me for the type of man who would be on stage, but the recorded performances I had seen showed a man of confidence, with a little swagger, fronting a band — not a man all by himself telling the crowd to “shut up” every few minutes. That being said, the highlight of that album, and the reason I wanted to see a live performance, was Tillman’s voice. And when he did get down to singing, it was far from disappointing. “I’m Writing a Novel”, “Only Son of the Ladiesman” (with girls from the audience echoing back at him), “Nancy From Now On” and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, all showcased his incredible vocal range. The songs themselves almost made up for the stage presence, but not quite. As he closed his set the same way as the album, with “Everyman Needs a Companion”, I made my way outside to get some fresh air. I didn’t need to stick around to see what he had to say next.
The highlight of my night came in between sets. I was able to catch up with a friend about his recent trip to Alaska to climb Denali, and we both were able to speak to Nathaniel Rateliff (a man who can win over a crowd with a full band or in a solo acoustic setting without feeling the need to be an asshole). Rateliff was in Tillman’s defense, comparing his banter to telling jokes onstage in Germany, where they just don’t understand his humour. I’m not sure I agree with that comparison, but I am extremely excited to see Rateliff back in town and to hear he is in the studio working on the follow up to 2010’s In Memory of Loss.
Youth Lagoon took the stage at 9:45pm. Watching Trevor Powers sitting at his keyboard, accompanied by a guitarist, I couldn’t help but wonder who put together this line-up. At first I thought maybe it was a Sub Pop thing, but then I realized Youth Lagoon is on Fat Possum. Whatever the reasoning, it was an odd decision. And although I love The Year of Hibernation, I just wasn’t feeling it after seeing Father John. So, after one of my favorites, “Posters”, I took my leave.
I usually try to stay away from writing anything negative on this site, so I almost didn’t even review this show, but I am just curious enough to know if I’m alone in my opinion.
Father John Misty:
Funtimes in Babylon
I’m Writing a Novel
Nancy From Now On
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Only Son of the Ladiesman
Now I’m Learning to Love the War
Well, You Can Do It Without Me
Everyman Needs a Companion