Review: Father John Misty Live / by Sam Abelow

Photocred @ alexcimmino  edited by myself

Photocred @alexcimmino edited by myself

Yesterday evening, August 5th 2015, Father John Misty played an energetic set to adoring fans at the Summer Stage in Central Park. He was powerful frontman, performing beautifully honest, introspective folk songs which despite a strong intellectual voice carried massive currents of emotion compelling the audience to connect with. The themes of his lyrics also enter the social and political realm in a uniquely satirical fashion. These expositions are full of revelation and somehow crystallize complex notions and viewpoints about the modern human condition.

Witnessing his highly lyric-driven music coupled with a strong intellectual pull, in a live setting was profound for me, as a devoted fan. I tweeted on the train ride home from the event: “I had a lot of pleasure dancing my tushie off at #FatherJohnMisty tonight in central park.” This was absolutely true and is indicative of the emotional and physical response to his performance.

The band sounded pristine. Immediately launching into “I Love You Honeybear,” taking the stage by storm. The driving pulse of pure musicianship translated off the vinyl onto the stage. This was especially true with the live version of “True Affection,” which unlike the record was completed powerfully by the live drums.

Lyrical Prowess: The Father of Folk

Father John Misty’s skeptical, harsh satirical nature was charismatic and appealing between songs, which almost bordered on a stand-up comedy routine. His vocals soured and hit all the right notes and runs, with the chops of an American Idol winner, without all the fluff, a sense of aesthetic that cannot be beaten by any artist out there besides possibly that of Thom Yorke.

In fact, his outstanding vocal abilities are such a focus, which are complemented by the borderline forced antics of turning the mic stand upside down and falling on the ground, jumping up onto the kick drum and running around.  The audience surely responded to the more driving rock rhythms, but I felt his stage techniques were a little contrived. Constructively, I would encourage Josh Tillman, the man behind the moniker, to always bring the violinist and consider hiring a small horn section, especially saxophone. He could then allow these musicians to carry some instrumental sections which live audiences always respond too.

The criticisms are far and few between and if I had a moment with the current father of folk, I would convey my complete admiration of extraordinary developed songwriting techniques and lyrical prowess. The way he assimilates troubling, intricate, dynamic social-political perspectives in a poetic and never “cringe-worthy” way is absolutely remarkable.

Singing: “Oh, they gave me a useless education; And a subprime loan… Keep my prescriptions filled; And now I can't get off; But I can kind of deal” is an exceptional way of summarizing a state of affairs which when observed create inner conflict. His inner resolution of the collective struggles is expressed succinctly, as a fellow songwriter I know firsthand that these types of topics are the most difficult to tackle in a beautiful way.

In a genius technique of lyricism of “Holy Shit”, formatted in a stream of associations, cuts to the core of reveals an intelligent man grappling with the current paradigm and striving towards consciousness. Tying together a seemingly endless slew of images which constellate into a pristine and objective view of our modern Western social climate: 

“Original sin, genetic fate

Revolutions, spinning plates

It's important to stay informed

The commentary to comment on”


This documentary's lost on me

Satirical news, free energy

Mobile lifestyle, loveless sex

Independence, happiness.”

The splendor and exceptional aptitude of this mature and focused lyricism can only be likened to Bob Dylan. Father John Misty is one of the great artists of this generation. Whether he will be recognized as such by the mass public, as compared to the view counts of Taylor Swift, remains to be seen, but I know he has effected me deeply.