Father John Misty Channeled Pure Catharsis at L.A.’s Greek Theatre
There’s something about singer/songwriter Father John Misty’s scathing cynicism that completely endears him to his legions of fans. Maybe it’s the cautionary tales he weaves into his sometimes beautiful, sometimes raucous songs, or maybe it’s the self-deprecation with which he so openly jokes. Either way, all of those things were on display when a fraction of that legion packed L.A.’s Greek Theatre on Oct. 13 for the penultimate show of the “Pure Comedy” tour.
It was Friday the 13th, in October, no less. But this was not a place for superstition. In fact, everyone felt lucky just to be there, about to take the ride with a live experience as cathartic as that of Josh Tillman’s alias. But first, Weyes Blood, the stage name chosen by quickly rising singer/songwriter Natalie Mering, tackled a sometimes unenviable task of getting the crowd ready. She rose to the occasion, amping the crowd up with her unique atmospheric, folksy brand of psychedelia. Her spectral vocals cut through the entire venue, taking full advantage of the Greek’s top-notch acoustics to leave a firm impression on every attendee.
With the appetizer firmly appreciated, the main course descended onto the place in the form of Tillman’s voice and a backing piano as he opened with “Pure Comedy.” The song built into a rapturous finish, with Tillman letting his words cascade into the impending crescendo. The backing band, complete with horns and a string section, helped even more emotion ripple out of Tillman’s vocal performance.
The set itself, complete with a pretend moon bathing Tillman in its shadow, only added to the already enchanting ambience. Tillman’s voice sounded as lilting and confident as on his recordings, and his actual stage presence bolstered that to new heights. Songs with grand, cinematic impact like “Ballad of the Dying Man” gripped every audience member in a sort of cathartic chokehold, while “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” left the place misty-eyed.
The way Tillman took charge on-stage smacked of a real confidence in performance. He even entertained himself in some whimsical banter between songs, from joking about his outfit — admitting to wearing a women’s blazer — to calling out some of his songs as bathroom breaks. Whether he was moving to and fro during a number or bringing a laugh out of the crowd, Father John Misty had the fans in the palm of his hand.
The set itself lasted two hours, during which time Tillman rarely lost the crowd, and when he did he would always get them back with the next song. He finished the set strong, with a one-two punch consisting of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “I Love you, Honeybear.” After an “encore” rose out of the crowd like a music-hungry phoenix, Tillman and company took the stage again, ripping through five more of his best and biggest. The fans hung on every word, desperate that there would be one more song to follow. Tillman built up to “The Ideal Husband,” a track worth the splendid finale, with horns building to a final explosion of sound as Tillman indulged his performers’ side.
As the lights came back on, there was that obligatory sense of disappointment that washed over the faithful audience, followed quickly by a sense of tremendous satisfaction, of all manner of emotions getting purged from a collective system. That, in its truest essence, is the feeling a father John Misty show leaves you with. From sunny ballads to raucous and sardonic sprints, every feeling gets explored. As the “Pure Comedy” tour takes its final bow, fans are already clamoring to hear what Father John Misty has up his sleeve next.