FATHER JOHN MISTY, Rio Cinema – Evening Standard, 27 March 2017

 

There’s not much point in reviewing one of the shows Josh Tillman performs as his darkly comic alter-ego, Father John Misty. The Maryland singer-songwriter, a former member of Fleet Foxes who has lately been an unlikely writer for Beyonce and Lady Gaga, reviewed himself as he went along during this low-key cinema performance to build interest in his next album.

On Leaving LA, the 13-minute acoustic centrepiece to his imminent third album under the Misty name, he sang: “Some 10 verse chorus-less diatribe plays as they all jump ship/I used to like this guy

but this new shit makes me want to die.”

He was accurate, if overly negative. Having gone into forensic detail on his love life on his sumptuous breakthrough album, I Love You, Honeybear in 2015, now he’s exploring the biggest of big pictures, seeing the world as “A speck on a speck on a speck” on In Twenty Years Or So. While the musical backdrop seems diminished, especially here where he only had a pianist for company, and choruses are largely absent, the lyrics are startlingly ambitious. He ought to be writing a novel if he didn’t have such a pure, emotional singing voice.

That sweetness tempered his obvious prickliness and discomfort. A promised smattering of older songs never materialised, but the existential journeying of his new material ought to hold attention for some time to come.

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