Father John Misty With Luluc April 22, 2015 Granada Theater
Whatever it is that you think about Joshua Tillman, or J. Tillman, or Father John Misty as he is calling himself these days, you have to acknowledge that he's an incredibly talented guy. He undoubtedly has an unshakeable ego, has been accused of being a pretentious asshole and occasionally veers into the misogynistic. Even if you aren't fully on board with Father John's psychedelic aesthetic and the attitude that comes along with it, it is extremely hard to deny that the former Fleet Foxes drummer is making some of the best music anywhere, in any genre, right now.
Just two months after the release of I Love You Honeybear, which has widely been praised as one of the most well-written albums of love songs of all time, Tillman was at the top of his game last night at Granada Theater. In one of the stronger bills of the year, Father John Misty's show last night with Luluc was, as anyone in that audience will tell you, a pretty goddamn transformative experience.
But nothing could have really been preparation for the intense set that Father John Misty had planned. As he opened with "I Love You Honeybear," it was clear that he has gotten more confident on the stage since the 2012 tour in support of his last record, Fear Fun. Having stepped completely away from the indie-folk aesthetic of Fleet Foxes and even his work as J. Tillman, Father John Misty is embracing the sort of hobo-troubadour identity he was born to embrace. His music is now infused with country twang and a soulful sensibility.
In that combination, there is a pointed sensuality. As he launched into the live version of "When You're Smiling and Astride Me," he said, "I'm going to get a little intimate with you, Dallas," and intimate he was. This track is a welcome addition to anyone's boner jams playlist; the sexy juxtaposition of old-school soul and Tillman's vocals had many a couple in the audience being touchy-feely. As a bonus, it's also a pretty damn solid love song, one of the less weird ones on the album.
To say that the crowd's expectations were high might be an understatement. Energy pulsed through the venue as Tillman played through his set, making his way from one weird-ass love song to another. When you're distracted by his excellent band and his Prince-esque hip-shaking, it's easy to forget just how poetic these lyrics really are. To compare tracks from Fear Fun and I Love You, Honeybear is to realize that Father John Misty is just beginning to do his best work.
Even the more misogynistic lyrics, dripping with male gaze and entitlement, feel like a highbrow satire of society's treatment of women. At one point he's singing "It's hard to believe that a good-hearted woman could have a body that could make you cry," and at another, he's critiquing capitalism and mass consumption and gender roles. This confusion is part of the performance, and one of its most exciting elements. It's hard to tell whether he's a biting satirist or a misogynist or both. As a performer, though, there's no denying that he's one of the best out there.
As he wrapped up his set before the encore and the crowd begged for more, Tillman said, "What more could you want? We just set Dallas ablaze! We thoroughly messed with Texas." This is probably all part of the egotistical persona that Tillman has created, but it would've been nice if he'd skipped all the annoying crowd interaction and just gone straight into the encore.
On "Bored in the USA," he was not bored at all. Even though the evening was winding down, Father John Misty was more energetic than ever. And it is that energy that makes everyone willing to put up with his incessant weirdness and occasional fuck-ups when it comes to women.
Low-key Australian act Luluc opened the evening, a rare opener that can rival the headliner. Between Zoe Randell's distinctive-but-soft alto voice and Steve Cassett's innovative playing of the guitar and bass, the sound is ethereal and dreamy without lacking substance. As they played through their 45-minute set, Randell and Cassett showed off their rich harmonies and swapped stories about touring with Fleet Foxes and J. Mascis to an audience that seemed mostly impressed.
Together, they have been able to create a dynamic that is unlike any other duo in music. Put simply, watch for them to become the newest buzzy it-band in a very short time. Unfortunately, much of their music is very quiet, and the crowd occasionally just wasn't able to keep quiet enough to really appreciate it. If you were really listening, though, you probably (hopefully) picked up their LP on your way out the door.
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