Review: Father John Misty at the Guildhall, Southampton

Father John Misty
Father John Misty

Enter the Theatre of Fear for a triumphant homecoming

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Father John Misty (AKA Josh Tillman) is a deeply distinctive and enigmatic artist. A self-styled ironic messiah, everything about him – from his name to his album artwork (a painting of the baby Jesus in Mary’s arms, with Tillman’s face replacing the infant’s) – is profound yet pastiche.

Svelte, feline and often back-lit in silhouette, he gyrates like a Motown songstress and drops to his knees during more emphatic verses.

But his often overlooked voice is the most striking thing about his Southampton performance. It’s powerful and pitch-perfect, soulful and versatile. He’s also a remarkable songwriter, juxtaposing themes like religion, modern love and consumerism, in irreverent but deeply intimate songs.

His six-piece band glides seamlessly through instruments, crescendos and unusual chord and key changes. Their set moves through genres, opening with country/folk Everyman Needs a Companion through ballads like When You’re Smiling And Astride Me to dance with True Affection, hard rock with The Ideal Husband, an acoustic section and a psychedelic section.

Tragicomic but uplifting, particular highlights were the appreciative crowd filling in the canned laughter for Bored in the USA, an emphatic finale with his latest album’s title track, I Love You, Honeybear, and a tender solo encore of I Went To The Store One Day.