In the hubbub of the crowd waiting for Josh Tillman to take the stage at London’s Village Underground, you can be certain that every conversation will have spent some time on the man that everyone came to see. From his widely reported “origin story”, to his perfectly picked covers, to his magnetically goofy onstage persona, Josh Tillman, or Father John Misty as he’s better known, certainly provides no end of talking points. This is especially true as we are just a few weeks on from the release of his widely lauded and loved second album I Love You, Honeybear.

In fact on the very day of this show at the 800-capacity Village Underground, it was announced that Father John Misty will be playing a two dates at the significantly larger Shepherds Bush Empire later in the year, such has been his surge in popularity. Thus, the gig-goers on this occasion must have been feeling extremely lucky in getting to see an artist up close and personal at the very moment of his explosion. And Tillman certainly nourished that notion from the moment he got on stage, getting down on his hands and knees, singing the opening title track of his latest album straight into the faces of those at the front of the crowd, letting us know that for the next 90 minutes we are all his honeybear.

Videos of FJM’s onstage dancing are rife on the internet, which depict him as entertainingly energetic and awkward, but in person with an all-black suit that unashamedly exposed plenty of chest, the raw sexuality that comes across in his lyrics radiated from his every movement. It takes quite a while to realise just how many people he has onstage with him, since your eyes can barely leave his gyrating, swaying, mic-stand-bedraggling body. After a particularly vigorous performance of ‘True Affection’ he told the audience “don’t worry, the guitar’s back on,” which afforded a hearty laugh (as did most of his quips) but inside I’m sure everyone was looking forward to the next time he would be able to move freely once again.

It’s undoubted that Tillman is a natural front man. From his voice that sounds just as richly glazed in person, to his confidence, to his desire to connect with the audience, he is a showman for every second he’s on stage – and the audience is entirely on his side. At one point during ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens…’ he swung his microphone too rigorously so that if disconnected from the cable and flew across the stage. Rather than rush across to collect it and meet his vocal cue, he strolled across the stage nonchalantly to pick it up, missing most of the second verse, but getting a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd. This show of confidence was topped later on when he sat on the front of the stage during ‘Bored in the USA’ to pose for pictures, and upon realising that one member was videoing he took the phone from them and filmed himself walking around the stage, all while continuing with the song perfectly. Finally he handed the phone back and jumped then waded into the audience to sing the song’s histrionic final verse en masse with an adoring crowd.

The whole evening was a true spectacle, and although Tillman is obviously the main reason and focal point, his band can’t go unmentioned. As their leader is lost in his own world, they hold the performance together, bringing to life all of his arrangements, rolling with him through exertive rockers like ‘The Ideal Husband’, humouring him through Leonard Cohen covers, and overall never missing a note. It is because of them that as Father John Misty continues to expand into bigger venues the live show will continue to be an unmitigated success. And, of course, because Tillman will have more space in which to show off his moves.

Setlist:

  • 'I Love You, Honeybear'
  • 'Strange Encounter'
  • 'True Affection'
  • 'Only Son of the Ladiesman'
  • 'When You're Smiling And Astride Me'
  • 'The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment'
  • 'I'm Writing A Novel'
  • 'Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow'
  • 'Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)'
  • 'Nancy From Now On'
  • 'This is Sally Hatchet'
  • 'The Ideal Husband'
  • 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings'
  • 'Funtimes in Babylon'
  • 'Holy Shit'
  • 'Bored In The USA'
  • 'I'm Your Man' (Leonard Cohen cover)
  • 'Everyman Needs a Companion'