Concerts are the closest thing to church I attend. I’ve noticed this in the stories I’ve written about shows, almost always making comments like “I think *insert artist name here* and the heavenly lights were summoning me to the afterlife.”
But, no other show compared to Father John Misty and his Jesus-like appearance, drapey white clothes and thick beard included. He even held the mic stand above his head, like he was raising a hand to bless the crowd, or whatever actual priests do, as beams of light glowed like a halo around him.
"His characteristic twang marked each note exactly, flawlessly enough to where I felt like I was listening to him through my headphones."
Behind the holy persona is Josh Tillman, who crooned soulful folk tunes for a packed Orpheum crowd Tuesday. The show felt intimate despite the size; the singer spent most of the show at the front of the stage strumming his guitar with his band in the shadows behind him, eventually standing alone.
Father John Misty played a mix of old jams, like fan favorite “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” as well as several tracks from his latest album God’s Favorite Customer. His characteristic twang marked each note exactly, flawlessly enough to where I felt like I was listening to him through my headphones.
The audience noticeably enjoyed the older tunes more — they joined Misty in quirky storytelling and dramatic love declarations by chiming in on tracks from his 2015 album I Love You, Honeybear. When he closed the show with the album’s title track, the room swelled with voices trying and failing to hit his notes.
Somehow, though, even when Misty plunked the piano and slowed down his bold voice, there was a sense of bliss. Maybe it was the mystical emphasis on strings and brass instruments in the newer songs he played, or the raucous drum and guitar that ended the first several songs, or watching him float like an actual angel onstage, but something made each song lively.
Known for his onstage snark in past shows, Misty kept it quiet throughout the set, despite one break to encourage sitters to stand, saying “Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when it’s time to lay down after all these relentless bangers.” He did, in fact play a string of jams before settling into heart-aching ballads, getting the crowd bopping and attempting to whistle for “Mr. Tillman” and belting “Real Love Baby.”
When he wound down, Misty’s voice ebbed and flowed like there was more than one of him, wrapping the crowd in a swirl of echoey, thick notes like a full church choir was singing down on us from the balcony. His lyrics kept us engaged like he was preaching a sermon, making people sway endlessly and lift their White Claw cans to the heavens.
Misty’s show was quaint, as he hardly bantered and only cotton candy-tinted lights flashed periodically without any crazy stunts; just Misty, his guitar and his band. But his voice filled the large theater and seemed to infect every person — arms looped around friends, couples kissed, we were all in some euphoric trance. He captivated the audience, sounding better than his recordings, not much unlike a preacher owning his altar.
Sammy Gibbons is Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.