Father John Misty | 04.09.15

fjm face_75His movements—like those of Jim Morrison mixed with a five-year-old on Incredible Hulk levels of adrenaline—never stopped.




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Ogden Theatre, Denver

To this Father John Misty newcomer, the entire event seemed to have a strange dichotomous-balance. From the weather to the bands, the attendees to the staff, and the very nature of the headliner, all seemed to be at polar opposite ends of their spectra yet flowing into an awkward equilibrium.

The weather had been warm for weeks—until 24 hours before the show, when temperatures dropped 30 degrees and forecasters were calling for freezing rain by show time. But it didn’t get all that cold, resulting in a few attendees in parkas and several in shorts and tees, and the rest of us in an undecided middle ground. The show was sold out and people were packed in tight, from the stage all the way to the back and up through the balcony. Whether it was from the resulting room temperature or too many party favors, there were at least two people, in some phase of passing out, who were dragged away from the front of the crowd by security before the opening act even took the stage.

And when the three-piece King Tuff did take the stage, they were completely different than anyone I would expect to be touring with FJM and, seemingly, a big surprise to many in the crowd. They were a living stereotype of ’80s metal, with patched jean jackets and trucker hats, skullets, and mean mustaches. Their music was solidly in that genre, too, with a hard rock, AC/DC–ish base and some sleaze-metal flare (e.g., Sea Hags or early Faster Pussycat). They even had a mostly falsetto semi-ballad that rocked out at the end (which was a prerequisite for ’80s metal, yeah?). But, despite that description, their act wasn’t cheesy. They were fairly soft-spoken but earnest between songs and they played well and showed good chops on all three instruments (especially the band’s namesake, King Tuff himself, on guitar). They appeared to truly love the music and were almost shyly appreciative when the crowd really warmed up to the band’s eagerness. In the end, they were quite endearing to a room full of people who probably wouldn’t normally fit the band’s demographic.

fjm blue_250LThen, after a short break and, judging from the smell in the air and the lines at the bar, time for people to get their heads chemically adjusted, Father John Misty took the stage. The first three songs were a flurry of activity from FMJ. With the light show fluctuating between moody red or blue lights and total darkness, he was all over the stage, often perched on the drum riser. But even then, his movements—like those of Jim Morrison mixed with a five-year-old on Incredible Hulk levels of adrenaline—never stopped during these first songs (the only time professional photographers were allowed to take pictures). This, combined with the giant neon (literally) heart with “No Photography” written through its middle, hanging predominantly over the stage, kind of gave me the feeling that he doesn’t like having his picture taken. The neon sign really seemed to confuse the crowd, too, in that, even in this day of everyone trying to capture YouTube gold, I hardly saw anyone with their camera phone out. Just one example of the ironic innuendo that Father John Misty doesn’t want certain attention—just so that you have time to give him all your other attention.

The middle stretch of music was a bit slower but still energetic. Most of his between-song banter was coaxing sexual attention from the crowd but then, paradoxically, saying self-deprecating things such as, when they called for him to remove his shirt, “I don’t know what you expect to see under here. I’m like Gumby with a tan.” He and his band played a long set, and by the (seemingly) last song, he was just blatantly admitting out loud that he was tired and ready for the show to be over. Sarcasm? Probably? Maybe? Father John Misty.

After giving it all (or so it seemed) in their closer, “Holy Shit,” the large ensemble meandered back on stage and FJM gave an ironic talk about how they were doing this unprecedented thing in coming back and playing an encore. (Hey bands: Just take a break when you’re tired. We’ll understand. The encore thing is as played out as can get.) They then played my three favorite songs—“Bored in the U.S.A.,” Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” and “Everyman Needs a Champion”—with a last burst of energy that was completely satisfying…and ironically sarcastic, given his “ready to be done” statement just three song ago.

Father John Misty’s voice continued to be exceptionally strong throughout, giving even more emotion to the often heartbreaking lyrics. It truly was striking how powerful his singing was, never breaking or wavering. In an era of autotune and other enhancements being used to hide the vocal weaknesses of performers who depend much more on sex appeal than talent, FJM’s vocal powers were seriously striking. He’s up there with the crooners of my grandparents’ day. For reals: Sinatra’s got nut’n’ on Father John Misty. And this is a man whose predominant talent is lyrics.

It’s one of those once-in-a-generation combinations that makes Father John Misty a must see. Must! See! | Matt Ehrlich

Photos by Matt Ehrlich

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