Father John Misty at the Barbican
Last night, the Barbican Hall was charged with expectations. The occasion was Father John Misty’s (Joshua Tillman) return to London to present his new album Chloë and the Next 20th Century (out today). The event had been announced as a special orchestral show featuring the artist, his band and the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Jules Buckley. The musician had previously performed with an orchestra only once, and whilst the audience waited for him to take the stage, there was a feeling of soaring excitement.
Tillman opened the concert with Funtimes in Babylon; behind him was an old Hollywood musical set design with a drape that changed colour as the lights switched from green to purple. The vintage mood echoed in the song that followed, Chloë, a jazz-inspired tune reminiscent of New Orleans standards. New single, Goodbye Mr Blue, was cheered by the audience, who sang along to the elegant Harry Nilsson-influenced track. Then it was time for one of the evening highlights, Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), its luscious interludes elevated by the Britten Sinfonia.
“It can be disorienting to hear a lot of new music,” said Tillman. While listening to new tunes can sometimes estrange the audience, the effect produced by first-time renditions of Kiss Me (I Loved You), We Could Be Strangers, and the Bossa Nova mood of Olvidado (Otro Momento) was quite the opposite. The merging of new tracks with the classics generated a majestic cinematic feel culminating with the lavish swing of Funny Girl.
Since his first album as Father John Misty, Tillman has undergone a transmutation in his live performances. Setting off his stage persona with the frantic shows of the I Love You Honeybear tour, the indie artist has now grown into a maestro, his marvellously composed tunes allowing the listener to linger on details: a saxophone, the glissando of a harp, a trumpet during Chateau Lobby. Musical moments that would have been lost in the vastity of big venues were in the spotlight thanks to the intimacy of the hall.
After leaving the stage with a joyous rendition of I Love You Honeybear, the musician returned for two encores, performing the incendiary Holy Shit and ending the evening with the unexpected rock ‘n’ roll detour of Date Night. “This one has an incredibly sophisticated orchestral arrangement that these guys just could not hack, so we’re gonna have to try it on our own,” joked Tillman. And so, they did. And it was a triumph.
Photo: Courtesy of Father John Misty
For further information and future events visit Father John Misty’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Funny Girl here: