Father John Misty The Workmans Dublin Review

Father John Misty at the Workman’s Club, 24th of November 2012

It’s just after twenty to ten on a horrible, drizzly night in Dublin and the lights go down in the Workman’s Club. “Sorry we’re late,” says Father John Misty – J. Tillman as he’s known to the taxman – shortly after he emerges, cucumber in hand, with his five band mates, “We were masturbating.” It’s an indication of the wit and humour that is to come from the tall, attractive, well-dressed man for the next hour or so.

He is at times surrealist comedian, other times social commentator. He is always an engaging raconteur and supreme lead-singer. And it’s on the main man upon which the show revolves. He is the constant focus of attention – even the bassist, who looks like Josh Groban dressed as Kurt Cobain with added lipstick, doesn’t distract from the man for too long – and never lets the entertainment lag for a moment.

All the while though, Tillman eschews the typical front-man platitudes. His only real mention of Dublin is a story of seeing a couple break up on Halloween in the city. This story somehow ends up with “Better things have happened in my life than fucking Marilyn Monroe. She dead!” He mentions some Irish ancestry but notes it’s an “insignificant percentage.”

There is also, of course, the paltry matter of the music. From opener Fun Times in Babylon the band never hits a bum note. Without any fancy lighting or stage set up – it’s just six men on a stage playing music – they play a pitch perfect set of blues-folk. With no excessive drums or base to drown everything out, each note comes across perfectly.  There is an incredible amount vocal clarity and every last one of Tillman’s erudite lyrics sound just like they did on the album, ‘Fear Fun’. All the while the glides effortlessly between octaves.

Tillman, unbounded by an instrument, poses and dances about all the while: his snaky hips bring to mind the movements of Jim Morrison. But there is a sense of irony in Tillman’s posturing. It’s as though he has no interest in being a star despite it clearly being something he was born for. The crowd bop about merrily and sing back an odd lyric or two but mostly seem content to stand back and take in the show on stage.

The crowd finally let themselves go for Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings, the song that closes out the main part of the set. Tillman returns with one of his guitarists for a slower number before the full band returns for a cover of Canned Heat’s On the Road Again; their own shackles now loosened. And that’s the end of this enchanting show. The audience exits back into the drizzle; their hearts lighter than an hour earlier.

Father John Misty will be back again at a no doubt larger venue. Do not miss him when he does.