The acclaimed satirist and comedian Chris Morris is in the audience at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight, perhaps checking out the competition – because Father John Misty is a very funny man. He once promoted a fake online streaming service called SAP, which contained only a lame muzak version of his own album, and recently poked fun at Ryan Adams’ 1989 cover album by recording Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Welcome To New York’ in the style of Lou Reed.
Father John, aka former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, is a certified troll but his perversely romantic chamber pop songs – about self-loathing, betrayal and the redemptive qualities of love – pack a real emotional punch at his largest UK show, a 2,000-capacity concert for which an extra date was added (in 2012 the tour for his first solo album under the FJM moniker, ‘Fear Fun’, only took him to the 200-capacity Shacklewell Arms in east London).
The Maryland crooner shimmies onto the stage, draping himself over the microphone, and his five-piece band floods the room with ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, the lovelorn title track from his recent album of the same name. He’s light on his feet throughout, dropping to his knees during ‘True Affection’ and cinematically chucking his guitar to a lackey in the quiet moment before ‘Nothing Good Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ explodes into technicolour.
It’s a surprise to learn he’s such a talented singer. On his latest record Father John sounds like an exhausted Gary Barlow, but tonight his voice is far more versatile, the falsetto on ‘Nancy From Now On’ contrasting with the pounding, half-screamed ‘The Ideal Husband’.
Father John Misty is clearly not just that funny bloke off the internet, yet the singer riffs comically on the crowd through the 90-minute set. He conducts a Q&A, introduces piano ballad ‘Bored In The USA’ by conceding “if you’re not enjoying yourself, this sarcastic song about despair won’t tip the balance” and swipes a cameraphone from the front row to film himself gurning down the lens. He’s a real talent and a real piss-taker, and amen to that.
Father John Misty played:
‘I Love You, Honeybear’
‘Only Son Of The Ladies Man’
‘When You’re Smiling And Astride Me’
‘The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt’
‘I’m Writing A Novel’
‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)’
‘Nancy From Now On’
‘Bored In The USA’
‘Nothing Good Happens At The Thirsty Crow’
‘This Is Sally Hatchet’
‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’
‘Funtimes In Babylon’
‘I Went To The Store One Day’
‘Every Man Needs A Companion’