Father John Misty returns to Manchester, armed with his usual array of cynical, witty storytelling and his latest album, Chloe and the Next 20th Century.
Father John Misty, the storytelling voice of Joshua Tillman, has spent his career over the last eleven-or-so years being the witty cynical marmite for the millennial generation, but it’s been noted time and time again, if you love him, you truly do.
The audience tonight at the Manchester Apollo surely do, spending their St. Patrick’s night squished together like travelling sardines in a sold-out venue, simply to see the former Fleet Fox, who has now absolutely outlived his previous sonic output by a country mile or more.
The fact that Tillman can sell-out a venue like this, of likely near 3,500 people standing, without any support act on St. Patrick’s Day is very telling of how popular the cult man is.
Bob Dylan sold the place out with seats back in November, doing the same thing, but 50-or-so years on the younger raconteur.
Father John Misty is back in-support of his latest Bella Union record, Chlöe and the Next 20th Century, a strong drift in sound for him, but one that has allowed for Misty and his band to open-up in the performance slate.
Close to this time last year, I had the chance to catch Misty‘s intimate performance at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, with a room of 300 not 3,000+, just as Chlöe was released.
Cramped onto the small stage of the iconic social club, Misty was armed with some brass added to his band, which across the eleven songs that he performed, they were greatly added onto.
Tonight at the Apollo, his band has not only added to that, but their sound is greater than it’s ever been, which is helped by Misty being the best he’s ever been.
Arriving a little after 8:30pm, Misty and company opened with “Q4“, the middle track of Chlöe. The song’s dreamy sound is still a wonder to hear, but it doesn’t quite land as an opening number.
From opening with Chlöe, they quickly move backwards with the trio of “Mr. Tillman“, “Strange Encounter“, and “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.”, the latter of which a standout from his breakout Honeybear.
Tillman took time, as he did throughout the night, to engage with the audience, this time telling a story about the latter song, and being asked by a college student about its meaning.
Often, his romantic and epigrammatic lyrics arrive at laughter or thought, but Tillman has the ability to make the crowd laugh with anecdotes at any stage during the show, a skill lacking sometimes in live artists.
“Nancy From Now On” followed, being one of only two Fear Fun (Misty‘s 2012 debut) airings this evening, sounds almost as fresh as ever, with each of tonight’s songs being tweaked and refreshed by Misty‘s latest live additions, and Chlöe‘s aforementioned sound.
Being one of his key songs, never-missed during a setlist, the Apollo clings to every single word.
Speaking again, ahead of “Goodbye Mr. Blue“, one of his latest stories about a reconciliation during the death of a pet, Misty asks the audience if anyone has lost a pet recently, to which someone near the front replies with their cat Flo, whom the song is dedicated to.
“Goodbye Mr. Blue” stands out within the Chlöe tracklist, leaning more into country-western than the rest of the album, something that isn’t new to Misty, although his more sun-drenched Gram Parsons-esque sound is laying low tonight.
The double-hit of the latest album ends with “Funny Girl“, which sounds extraordinary, if anything. Tillman explains, comically, that he set-out to craft a “fake jazz” record, with a sound that if Harry Mancini‘s vocalist was an ingenious narrator.
That “fake jazz” sound influences the entire preceding, something that he mentions frequently.
“When You’re Smiling and Astride Me“, “Chateau Lobby #4” both get the crowd the loudest they’ve been all night, as they should.
“Chloë” and “The Next 20th Century“, each splitting sort of one-half of the recent records’ title, are effortlessly brilliant, although they’re split by the duo of “Total Entertainment Forever“, and Misty‘s personal favourite, “Date Night“, which often finishes shows rather than sits in the middle.
“Pure Comedy” sounds as fantastic as ever, with the crowd entranced until a quick stoppage perfectly done in the middle of the song interrupts.
The occurrence only happens twice tonight, but Tillman is concerned and attentive each time, caring for the crowd that clearly adores him.
The song that made the man, “I Love You, Honeybear” finally makes its appearance to close the set, before Tillman & Co. return for their four-run encore, starting with “Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings“.
“Buddy’s Rendezvous“, bringing out the best of the storytelling Misty, the quiet and truthful “Holy Shit“, and finally, a ruccous rendition of “The Ideal Husband” seal the show as being one of the best you’d likely see this year.
Father John Misty continues to stride from acclaim to acclaim, and begs for his flowers deservedly with almost-perfect shows like this.