Father John Misty’s game changing show at Sage, Gateshead

Father John Misty is a spectacle. After all the interviews, the talk shows, the performances there were plenty of expectations in place before seeing him in the flesh and he somehow broke down almost every single one of them in the space of two hours.

Strutting out onto the stage in an all white suit, kitten heeled boots and sunglasses he was a vision. Opening on ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, he was only backlit by beaming red lights as he ripped into the song on his guitar. From there he floodlit the stage with light for the two songs any finally spoke at the end of ‘Nancy From Now On’.

There’s a moment in between the first few songs where the lighting changes and the red backlights return, with fast spinning orange beams to compliment them as the music changes tempo to into the big chorus at the end of ‘Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All’. For a split second I worried I’d shifted dimensions and was watching the gates of hell open up as he belted out the final chorus. 

I think part of the appeal of Father John Misty is the mystery surrounding him. For all his interviews and appearances in the public eye, no one feels any closer to knowing who he is because he’s half Father John Misty and half Josh Tillman, but tonight he’s all Father John Misty.

 I half expected the night to be a somber, somewhat serious one as from what I’d seen, that’s what usually happened. The past two albums Pure Comedy and God’s Favourite Customer aren’t exactly the most joyful records yet somehow they’re absolutely transformed, almost euphoric live. FJM struts up and down the centre of the stage, wiggling his hips to the beat of the drums, dancing with the mic stand over his head for a third of the set.

When he stopped to talk to the audience, the Father John Misty you’d expect came out. A woman in the crowd tells him it’s her birthday and he laughed off a suggestion from the crowd to have her on stage, “Do you know how much it costs in royalties to sing ‘Happy Birthday’?” and launches into ‘I Went To The Store One Day’.

There was a moment in ‘Real Love Baby’ in which two wives were sat down and two husbands were in the standing area and they came out to dance for their other halves. It was sweet and funny in equal parts as the pair pulled their best ballet moves and even twerked nearly at one point. On stage was a little tamer as Father John Misty was restricted to just his hypnotic hip wiggling behind his guitar for this one.

Coming back out after a rapturous applause he announces they were going to “spontaneously crack out a couple of favourites, as per the setlist”, and to be fair to him that’s exactly what they did. He stops and laughs after singing “the poem zone” line from ‘The Palace’.

‘I Love You, Honeybear’ is incredible, every single note is dead on what it is in the studio and the magic of the song is tangible in the room. They finish on ‘Date Night’ which has a large portion of the audience up and moving, it’s a proper rock and roll moment in the evening and a massive high to end on.

Listen to Father John Misty here.

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