On a dreary, rainy Monday night at Webster Hall, the crowd got a big lift from the artist currently known as Father John Misty, and vice versa.
He began by standing with his hands on his waist, hair and beard messy, as if soaking up the cheers. Then came odd gyrations of hips and lanky arms and legs.
Somehow it all worked as an acoustic guitar strummed and he sang the opening lines of “Funtimes in Babylon.” Maybe that’s how they danced in old Babylon.
Father John Misty is Josh Tillman, an artist 10 years into his career. He released a solo album in 2003 under J. Tillman, joined Fleet Foxes as drummer in 2008, and then early last year announced via Twitter that his work with them was done. Shortly thereafter Father John Misty was born.
This latest venture finds Tillman crafting Laurel Canyon- inspired soulful and playful music on his 2012 Sub-Pop debut record, “Fear Fun,” one of 2012’s best albums.
Back at the Jan. 14th concert, the anthemic “Only Son of the Ladiesman” drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. “Nancy From Now On” followed with a groovy bass line, stretched-out synth and triangle notes. Tillman glided along the stage with microphone stand in hand.
“I’m Writing a Novel” conjured a surf-rock sound with bouncy beat and witty lyrics. Many of the songs on “Fear Fun” tell tales that reflect an opened mind and an imaginative altered state.
“This Is Sally Hatchet” had tambourine and etching guitar that brought on a slight Beatles feel. Jangly keys and twangy guitar took over on “Well, You Can Do It Without Me,” a short and sweet rockabilly ditty.
Tillman then delivered the album’s standout track, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” With the stage dimmed red and smoke machines pumping out fog, a cymbal repeatedly clapped, guitar notes ripped and tambourines tinkled.
The band returned for a spot-on cover of Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again,” a reminder that Tillman, through all his metamorphoses, brings wit and craftsmanship that shine on record and live.
After a tour of Australia set for this month, Father John Misty will be stateside for an appearance at Coachella in April and then begin a national tour for May and June. The band will make an intimate local stop at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on May 17th. Expect it to sell out.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in February. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets:
Feb. 4 Kishi Bashi at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe Feb. 5 Yellowbirds/Little Silver/Inner Banks at Glasslands Feb. 6 Swans/Marissa Nadler at Music Hall of Williamsburg Feb. 7 On An On/Tiny Victories/Young Heel at Glasslands Feb. 8 People Get Ready/Man Forever/Color War at Mercury Lounge (Late) Feb. 9 Screaming Females/Black Wine/Stormshadow/Home Blitz/Shellshag at Music Hall of Williamsburg Feb. 10 Beak>/Chrome Canyon at Bowery Ballroom Feb. 11 Matmos at Le Poisson Rouge Feb. 12 Bleeding Rainbow/The Neighbors/Census/Spires at Glasslands Feb. 13 Toro Y Moi/Wild Belle/Dog Bite at Webster Hall (SO) Feb. 14 Teengirl Fantasy/Laurel Halo/Kelela at Le Poisson Rouge Feb. 15 Lee Fields & the Expressions at Bowery Ballroom Feb. 16 Yo La Tengo at Town Hall Feb. 17 Alex Bleeker & the Freaks/Quilt/Weyes Blood at Glasslands Gallery Feb. 18 Willy Moon at Pianos Feb. 19 Jim James at Music Hall of Williamsburg (SO) Tame Impala/The Growls at Terminal 5 (SO) Feb. 20 Ludwig Persik/Cascading Slopes at Pianos Feb. 21 Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall (Various Artists) Feb. 22 The Spinto Band/Arms/Brazos at Mercury Lounge (Late) Feb. 23 Beach Fossils at Bowery Ballroom Feb. 24 Lord Huron at Music Hall of Williamsburg Feb. 25 Solange at Webster Hall (SO) Feb. 26 Bob Mould/Bear in Heaven at Bowery Ballroom Feb. 27 Autre Ne Veut/Majical Cloudz at Santos Party House Feb. 28 Unkown Mortal Orchestra/Foxygen/Wampire at Bowery Ballroom
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine, Daniel Akst on books.
To contact the writer on this story: Jaime Widder in New York at email@example.com or @Widder_Twidder.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.