Do not besmirch his party. Interpretations of artistic intent are always to be levelled at the artist, but Father John Misty makes his aim and execution clear. He does so not out of unravelling the mystery, there is still plenty of misty wonder at his Sage Gateshead gig, but out of respect for those on the journey with him. Intensity, movement and clear spectacle marked an absorbing and independent presentation. Father John Misty, accompanied by pure expectation and no opening act presents a live delicacy that replicates what Bob Dylan did so well at the Bonus Arena in Hull last year. Smooth, unwavering instrumentals backing a powerful and vocal heritage. Get on, get going, get off.
An evening with the man himself proves fruitful, giving life and crucial, visual scope to the latest tracks from lounge-loving latest piece Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Opening quadruple We Could Be Strangers, Mr. Tillman, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt., and (Everything But) Her Love create a lush and melodic narrative. Presented with earnestness and calming, soothing interjections about song inference, lost pets and musings on his music across the pond, Joshua Tillman has that steadfast confidence so desperately needed for the image he presents. Donning that white t-shirt and black blazer, backed by suitable attire for the band and a draped curtain behind them gives it a stage show fitting of the imagery associated with Tillman’s latest album.
Gig-goers were in no short supply of those new offerings either, with tremendous outings of Funny Girl and Goodbye Mr. Blue blurring nicely into the later stages of I Love You Honeybear and a tender cover of Elvis Presley’s defiant Don’t Be Cruel. Tillman and company ease their way through a delicate, twenty-track set that not only encourages the imagery his vaudeville-like approach to the stage but cements it as a scope that works for his previous works. Inclusions of Buddy’s Rendezvous and Pure Comedy were inevitable but incredibly rewarding and slot in nicely to the latter stages of the show. What comes clear with Father John Misty as a creative flow, though, is the dedication to the fundamentals of what makes a gigging experience so engaging for an audience. A well-rounded set on Sage Gateshead’s stage gives way to some opportune moments of instrumental work and a place for Tillman to express his often touching repertoire.
A little bit of quiet from the crowd made for a calmer experience. Tillman engages the silence and warms the audience nicely with anecdotes about college papers on partying in his lyrics. Do not besmirch the party, he says firmly but, presumably, jokingly. Father John Misty is an essential live experience that does well to elevate the portions of Chloë and the Next 20th Century some may have found misplaced or understated. All it takes is for Tillman to take the time to engage and get to know his audience, to let them shape certain parts of the show. The illusion of involvement is far greater than the heavy crawl of singing along, and this evening with an inspired, settled artist, proves quite the rare treat for Sage Gateshead.