FATHER JOHN MISTY
WILTERN THEATER, LA
02 NOVEMBER, 2013Father John Misty put the finishing touches on his solo acoustic expedition at the Wiltern Theater, so named for its location of the corner of Wilshire and Western in Koreatown. Since September's warmup date in Big Sur as a benefit for the Henry Miller Library, the Misty juggurnaut has travelled across the country. Net changes in the set amount to few, other than natural tightening that occurs over the course of dates. It was impressive to note the packed upper corners of the Wiltern, his biggest sole-appearing LA appearance to date, and staging for the most part was spartan, but well-used. Throughout the show, a lady in a black bikini with thigh high leather boots and a giant rabbit head perched on a chair behind him, motionless but for shifting position every few songs. As an unsettling counterpoint, it was second to none, and midway through the set, the already-fabled I-Phone cutout swung down from the rafters to occupy pride of place onstage.
Charging right in, he opened with "I'm Writing A Novel", pushing traditional opener "Fun Times In Babylon" to midway through. After "Only Son Of A Ladies Man", he worked into the new with a rousing "I Love You Honeybear", and what we'll guess is called "Funny Girls", a bitter crowd-pleaser that addressed misuse of the word "literally" to pleasing effect. Another new song was rolled out after "Fun Times In Babylon", a slow charmer that we'll know for now as "Chateau Lobby #9". The Dory Previn cover that he played in Big Sur reappeared here, and one of the evening's high points was yet another new song, (provisionally we'll call it "Awful Things"), that underlined the energy that Misty brought to the table, underscoring the difference with the intimate, more probing versions of songs heard in Big Sur. It was a harrowing tune, and adds another facet to the emotional spectrum of the forthcoming LP. For Mistyologists, the inclusion of a spoken word father-son talk in "How I Learned To Love The War" was something new and entertaining, and for his encore, he backed up "Tee Pees 1-12" with the new "The Atom Bomb and Me" (our title...), that had a philosophical rumination on the cultural phenomenon of opportunistically invoking "Free Bird". Tillman finished off the night with a bang, concluding with the rarely played, "O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me", the only song from Fear Fun I'd yet to hear him play live. Speculation on why he never played it live seems to range from 'too personal' to 'too Fleet Foxes-like'. Hell, likely none of the above for what we've seen of Misty. The song itself is but a brief heartfelt interlude in the middle of the insanity of the album, and with repeated listenings, takes on the weight of a hymn, akin to Son Volt's "Windfall". Tonight's take missed the lonesome organ lines of the studio version, but was more than made up for by the sheer power of his delivery. And with that, Misty waved to the crowd, and arm in arm, strolled off the stage with his bunny.