Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Return Of The Prodigal Son: Father John Misty live

16 JANUARY, 2015
Gearing up for next month's release of the second chapter in the life and times of Father John Misty, the rustic Bret Harte Auditorium at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, CA turned out to be the proving ground: the first night of tour for I Love You, Honeybear. As part of a tenth anniversary run of shows, the good folks at Folk Yeah once again provided an inspired match of artist and venue. Shedding Benji and Jeff from the touring lineup cast big holes on either side of the stage, but with an increased emphasis on electronics and the roll out of the rest of the Honeybear songs, it proved to be a banner night, as their replacements were more than capable, just a touch on the tentative side, but this was the first night, after all. Where Mk. I of the Misty Band was prone to spontaneous flights, this version was dialed-down, watchful, and fed off of Misty for their cues, but there were enough signs that this unit would develop its own character, and 8 or 10 shows down the road, should be approaching fearsome.
Misty gets things started...
The big news was the new material, and Misty and co. rocked an extended setlist that nearly covered both albums fully, and even the new material heard previously in a solo setting came to life with a vengeance in the full band setting. Like the new LP, the show was bookended with the first and last tracks, reinforcing the story through all the spills and chills that ensue. "I Love You Honeybear" featured an audience member passing up a stuffed bear for Misty, and he obliged with a brief dance turn, and from that point on, it was full engagement on both sides. Misty wryly noted fans singing along with the new songs already.

"Strange Encounter" took a prime spot in the set, and "True Affection" was brought to life in all its electronic glory, before dropping into a rousing take on the Southern soul burner "When You're Smiling And Astride Me" that built to a rousing conclusion, with the band hitting all cylinders, the pair of songs showcasing the sonic extremes of the new work.
Not even breaking stride they launched into the hilarious poison pen letter "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment" before cooling it down with "Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddam Thirsty Crow", another ode from the department of bitter, aimed at the denizens of an establishment engaged in hitting on the object of Misty's affections.

"Chateau Lobby #4" turned up, refocusing the lens on love, and a trio from Fear Fun, "Nancy From Now On", "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings", and "This Is Sally Hatchet" thoroughly whipped the audience into a frenzy, and would have been a perfect finishing point for previous Misty sets, but he kept going, coming back to Honeybear for a 'no prisoners' take on "The Ideal Husband" that rivaled "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" in intensity. The remainder of the set matched like-minded songs from both records to stunning effect, with "Bored In The USA" mating effectively with "Fun Times In Babylon", and ending the set perfectly with "Now I'm Learning To Love The War" and "Holy Shit" comprising a high concept duo of Maximum Tillman.

Half the fun of any Misty show is the encore, and just what he'll pull out of his hat, cover-wise, and true to form, he led the band in a saucy, yet pointed rendition of Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man", and where that might come off as kitschy in other hands, the cumulative impact of the new songs suggests that Mr. Tillman has earned the gravitas to pull it off. Ending the night with another savory pairing, "Everyman Needs A Companion" brought us to the simple beauty of the aforementioned new LP's closer, "I Went To The Store One Day", which sums up the journey from the beginning. All told, Father John Misty set a hellish bar early on in this concert year.
Bret Harte Auditorium at Roaring Camp Railroads
Ammo case makes a nifty keyboard stand...
Upping his T-shirt game...
"I Love You, Honeybear", out 10 February, 2015 via Sub Pop

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