ACL Live Review: Father John Misty
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Tillman
By Kahron Spearman,
11:50AM, Sat. Oct. 6, 2018
Almost resurrected as a dirty messiah of awful relationships, Josh Tillman showed up at his Friday ACL slot dressed in a white suit, shirt, and jacket. Starting at 6:45pm sharp on the Barton Springs stage, the indie rocker known as Father John Misty and his black-clad septet, plus a string section, launched into his trademark, highbrow sardonics.
Digging into strong notes from his catalog, including latest album God’s Favorite Customer, the singer delivered faithful renditions of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “Mr. Tillman,” remarkable for their unsullied melodies and distinctive vocals.
Meanwhile, Tillman kept his man Friday busy. For example, the suited tech gave the bandleader a new guitar for each of the first four songs. Once, he arrived to move his employer’s microphone stand six inches to the left.
“Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” found the headliner jumping into his vintage Jim Morrison schtick, doling out some off-the-strip Vegas theatrics as he effortlessly strolled and strode. “Nothing impresses me much/ I’ve got a great attitude,” he crooned on “Date Night,” played up into a vibrant, carefree rock tune as if a broken man didn’t write it while listening to Billy Joel. He borderline orates his great cynicism of humanity in “Pure Comedy,” intoning, “We emerge half-formed and hope whoever greets us on the other end is kind enough to fill us in.”
Ultimately, Tillman performs as a romantic disguised as a person too cool, too cold, too damaged, too smart to love and receive love with conditions. However, the rapt crowd got an earnest take on “I Love You, Honeybear,” a song about the conditions of his bond with his wife – and also possibly his misanthropic worldview:
“You’re bent over the altar, and the neighbors are complaining/ That the misanthropes next door are probably conceiving a Damien.”
Josh Tillman is Father John Misty. Father John Misty may also be Josh Tillman. It's becoming difficult to tell the difference, and perhaps that's the idea.