Father John Misty VS. The World

Father John Misty, the proprietor of all things hip in indie rock, took his witty banter and silky smooth voice to Crossroads KC for his fourth Kansas City performance in three years. On the 20th, this past Sunday, he played a vast majority of new tracks from his latest album “Pure Comedy” and left some of his stage theatrics behind. That’s not to say though that he held back any punches with his onstage banter.

Father John Misty, formerly the drummer of Fleet Foxes, and one of the most central voices in the “folk-rock” (his words) genre, has a unique performance style. Especially for this tour, he takes a more mellow, less in-your-face approach to his music. Instead, he framed the show around the theme of “the world is crumbling around us, so don’t take anything too seriously.”

Misty, whose real name is Josh Tillman, has always been known for his sharp tongue and even sharper wit. It has gotten him acclaim, notoriety, and countless think-piece articles written regarding his almost sadistic onstage conversations. For example, he is currently embroiled in beef with Ryan Adams, Ricky Martin, and plenty of others. During this performance, he aired just some of these grievances.

When an audience member yelled “Ryan Adams sucks!” Misty replied “Yeah he does… you have to sort of suck to do this whole thing,” implying performing onstage for audience applause.

But the music is really what the fans came to see, and for the most part, they left the hour and 15 minute long show content. But the issue for me was that he spent too much time playing new songs and kept the pace of the show to a slow crawl. Every other time I’ve seen Father John Misty, he has worked himself into a sweaty and violent fervor—jumping off of the drum set, flailing and dancing in true FJM style, and swinging the microphone by the chord so coolly, I could’ve swore he was Mick Jagger. Unfortunately, this performance featured very little of that.

Instead of dancing, he strummed his acoustic guitar with a straight-face, and instead of working the crowd up into some of their favorite sing-a-longs, he drilled into our heads some meta-intellectual songs about innate civilian systems crashing and the state of global economies coming to a halt. But as good as these songs are, and as beautiful as Tillman’s voice is as it rings out into the night, there were only about three or four songs to sing along to. The rest were as dry as Misty’s humor.

I suppose it’s snobby to insist that an artist play the songs that got them where they are, especially on tour to promote their new album, but when you are playing to a crowd of people outdoors, during a time of humanity where a lot of uncertainty hangs in the balance, is it really too much to ask for a couple songs to get our feet moving and our voices heard?

Father John Misty is a performer who doesn’t care what you think. I knew that before this show, and I definitely know it now. I can’t even say I was truly dissatisfied with the show, but I can say that if I had gone in expecting to dance and sing and have a good time, I would’ve gone to a different concert. In the end, Father John had the last laugh, and isn’t that Pure Comedy?