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Pure Showmanship: Father John Misty Live in Austin

Posted by May 14th, 2013 No Comments »

Father John Misty Live Emo’s
May 7, 2013 in Austin, Texas  
By P.T. Stinson 

Unafraid to work the stage or unafraid to work his way through a litany of thoughts about shuffling off this mortal coil, Father John Misty belted, strutted and demonstrated to a sold out Austin setting just how much distance there can be between a recording and a live experience.

Playing to a sold out venue that has all the soul of someplace built on a massive parking lot might indicate, J. Tillman left no skeleton un-closeted during the nearly 90-minute show, pausing frequently mid-song to tuck in his shirt (for the sake of decorum, he said) or talk to an audience member (you’re never going to call me are you? I wouldn’t call me either …), before sticking the landing for the rest of “Funtimes in Babylon” and for the rest of the night. “Nailed it. Pure showmanship,” he continued.

It was an evening filled with almost Paul Westerberg moves en route to finding a way to defray the vulnerability of a song with a bit of humor –the only difference being that Tillman clearly wanted to be on stage.

In an evening peppered with phrases “I’m gonna take my life one day” and “I’m going to leave behind a bunch of things that won’t decompose” the band’s charismatic and cavalier affectations poking through the dry-ice stage were befitting a house band just past the pearly gates if it turned out that life was just a Monty Python movie. Cheer up, it’s only life after all.

Exuding all the power of a preacher who knows that he’s going to get his own Sunday morning television show one day, Tillman went from brief moments of crooning to frequent departures into country with blistering almost Eddie Rabbit-like declarations, offering a brief glimpse of what it might have looked like if Frank Zappa had gotten into country music.

With all the production values usually associated with a dissent into madness, hell, or at least a brush with the guy with the horns and the cape, flickering red lights and heavy amounts of dissonance provided a visual setting for set-closer “Hollywood Forever Cemetery” as Tillman unburdened himself one last time, collapsing to his knees, twirling his partner above, forwards and backwards and finally held behind his back, engaging in at least four of the twelve stations of the microphone stand.

Following an acoustic encore, the rest of the band joined Tillman for a cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” –equal parts uplifting and haunting given the evening’s mortal tone– that was fully in keeping with a performance that seems likely to further widen the Father’s congregation.

P.T. Stinson comprises our one-man Austin office.

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