Father John Misty: Rock ‘n’ Roll Jesus
J. TILLMAN LEAVES CROWD SPEECHLESS
On Aug. 25, Josh Tillman, also known as Father John Misty, regally strolled onto the Red Rocks Amphitheatre stage alongside a live orchestra consisting of 20 members. His bluegrass roots shone through the neon blue haze of the stage. His performance that night would make for one of the most phenomenal Red Rocks concerts of the season.
At 9 p.m., the stage went dark and neon blue smoke billowed around the sides of the stage. Each member of Tillman’s accompanying band walked on to the stage wearing white or black tuxedo suits.
The band was comprised of classical musicians with the likes of a brass section, strings, drums, piano, and wind instruments. Through the smoke, a tall figure approached the stage, hair slicked; the music began.
Father John Misty opened with “Pure Comedy,” a single off his latest album of the same name. The long illustrious song was an out-of-body experience for the audience. The echoing of instruments off the rocks in tonal contrast with Tillman’s voice was alluring and bewitching. The crowd swayed and sang along to every word as religious iconography pulsated on the screens that decorated the stage.
Tillman then played “Ballad of a Dying Man” and suddenly dove to the ground, writhing in torment to align movement with the words of the song. Throughout the show, Tillman was engaged with the audience and danced along graciously to the beat of the music.
“Hollywood Cemetery Sings Forever” was a crowd favorite. Tillman’s voice rang out ominously as he sang the words, “Jesus Christ, girl” through the song’s opening. Tillman incorporated the Madonna and Child and multiple crosses into his stage aesthetic. The performance concluded with “Real Love Baby,” one of the only optimistic songs that Tillman has created.
The crowd jubilantly danced along and sang, “I’m the flower, you’re the bee,” as many members kissed and hugged their loved ones. Tillman is known to suffer from extreme depression and anxiety, which makes him a unique performer. His emotional struggles with mental health make him who he is and allow him to create dark but beautiful music that resonates with his audience.
Although some songs need a fine tooth comb to be understood, Tillman’s music at the core is layered with references and makes the listener critically think about what they are taking in.
Red Rocks has been home to many talented musicians, but Tillman’s performance likely left a profound impact on all those who attended. Josh Tillman has the reputation to be a bit flippant and a bit morose, but that somehow only adds to his beguiling charm that always grabs his fans’ and critics’ attention. Colorado was spared from his regular cynicism on Friday and was only greeted with the best side of Tillman’s showmanship.