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Father John Misty @ Union Transfer.

April 3, 2015

FatherJohnMisty04Text by Kevin Stairiker. File photo by Grace Dickinson.

Philly loves Father John Misty, but it has strange ways of showing it.

Tickets for the bands’ April 1st show at Union Transfer sold out nearly two and a half months early. But when it came time for the show to start, the crowd simply could not help bringing to life every Philadelphia audience cliche. People yelling incoherently, ironically raising lighters and generally “Woo!”-ing the life out of place at times was not a good look by any means.

Misty, the erstwhile Josh Tillman, put up with more than a few boisterous drunk fans who wanted nothing more than to be a part of the show.

Regardless, Tillman and his fancy new six-piece band (multi-instrumentalists in black suit jackets, a far cry from the low-key look of the band at his first U.T. show) managed to rip through almost the entirety of their two-album catalogue. Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear came out in February to nearly unanimous praise, so it was right that the audience was treated to every song but one. Tillman was his usual dancing, shamanistic self. Standing squarely at the corner of Jim Morrison and Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, Tillman had the audience in his hands from the moment he walked onstage.

The band’s donation to the April Fools’ Concert Jokes Foundation involved starting the concert with the title track from Honeybear and then bringing up the house lights and exiting the stage. They left for two or three minutes to the amusement of the crowd and then came back on to deliver the show.

Tillman later deadpanned that he wished he could have kept the joke going for “25 more minutes.”

FatherJohnMisty09Unlike Tillman’s last show at Union Transfer (photo by Kate McCann), a solo-Misty affair which showed him workshopping the songs that would appear nearly two years later(!) in finished form, the banter was kept to a minimum to deliver the full impact. Performing 19 of his 23 total recorded works is a fairly ballsy statement to make, one that abolishes the notion of album tracks being any lesser to the songs that get featured in live form on late night talk shows.

Then again, it could be hubris.

But playing to both of those sides has been a constant feature of Tillman’s persona since the birth of Misty three years ago. He knows people would much prefer a multi-faceted conflicted performer than a straightforward bearded guy with an acoustic guitar singing about his woes.

So when Misty danced and gyrated in front of a neon heart sign that said “No Photography,” singing about true affection and every man needing a companion, the crowd was right there with him. And despite some drunken assholes yelling things out (some questions from the impromptu Q&A included “Are you my dad?” and “Snarky?”), it seemed to be at least partly out of a real appreciation for the craft and musicianship on display.

When the show ended (for real this time), the band left as the lights came up but Tillman stuck back to shake the hands of everyone in the first row. The bit of goodwill harkened back to the band’s first show at Union Transfer when Tillman stayed behind to hand back coats at coat check.

Father John Misty loves Philly despite our shortcomings and he made it known for sure on Wednesday night.

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