Father John Misty + Cameron Avery – The Forum Theatre, Melbourne (10/12/2015)

Cameron Avery’s rich baritone voice and the old-timey delay on his semi-acoustic helped to give the impression that he should be singing in a suit. His deeply sentimental songs were inflected with a wry sense of humour and earnest wit, which on its own explained why he was the perfect choice of support act for tonight.

From the first few bars of opener I Love You Honeybear it was clear that this was going to be a performance set on a grand scale, both sonically and emotionally. The song was delivered as a dramatic anthem, more bombastic and powerful that it is on the album that takes its name, with Father John Misty immediately dropping to his knees, throwing dance poses and hoisting the microphone stand above his head.

Since reinventing himself under this guise with 2012’s Fear Fun, Josh Tillman’s creation is as much about his own charisma and ego as it is about the extremely intimate songs he pens. The conversational style that typifies this music is a big part of this, cleverly combining deadpan sarcasm, self-deprecation and heartfelt sentiments.

It was a remarkable thing to be presented with song after song and each one feeling like a big moment, particularly when considering that the man only has two albums to his (current) name.

True Affection was reinvented as something close to a dance tune, with massive delays and electronic drum sounds revealing the club hit that could have been.

While on record Honeybear’s arrangements, including strings and mariachi horns, help to give the impression that it is a considerably more lush affair than its predecessor, it was interesting to note that many of the most energetic and engaging moments were from the newer album.

Fear Fun tracks Only Son of the Ladies’ Man, This Is Sally Hatchet and Everyman Needs a Companion, all based around acoustic guitar, sounded like classic folk/at-country songs, however they lacked some of the vigour and quirkiness of the recent material.

Holy Shit began, as a mid-tempo piano tune, before halfway through unexpectedly exploding into a barrage of atonal sound. The band then wound themselves back through this noise to finish the song as a revved up rock’n’roll number, which in turn led into a bile-fueled and invigorated take on The Ideal Husband.

Misty returned to do a little stand-up in the guise of an audience Q&A for the encore, delighting the crowd with his quick wit and droll delivery. When asked why humour is important to his music he replied sincerely, “I’ve found there’s a direct correlation between humorous lyrics and merchandise sales.”

Father John Misty delivered a goddam incredible show, he is a fucking master of the dark arts and you need his magic in your life.

Written for Beat Magazine.

Photograph by Dan Soderstrom for Speaker TV.

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