Live Review: Father John Misty at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith

‘It’s date night, have the time of your life’

For those who may not know, Joshua Tillman (41), better known by his stage name ‘Father John Misty’, is a man of many talents. Originally from Rockville, Maryland in the U.S, Tillman has made his mark on not only the U.S, but the rest of the world for the past 20 years; from acting as a drummer for the popular indie folk band ‘Fleet Foxes’ during their early days to performing sold-out shows across the U.S and Europe as a solo artist for his newest album, ‘Chloe and the Next 20th Century’, Tillman has truly seen it all. And, after seeing a Father John Misty show live with my own eyes, I can attest to his greatness.

When someone thinks of Father John Misty, they may not consider him a ‘rockstar’; but his show on the 8 March, 2023, at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith begs to differ. Although Tillman’s music can be classified under many genres, the studio versions of his songs are not inherently ‘rock’. And although attached to an acoustic guitar the entire night, Tillman’s performance was anything but slow and somber. Songs like ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ and ‘Chloe’ were enhanced by insane lighting and faster, more spunky tempos. The drums and bass were tastefully heavy and Tillman’s voice was stunning, dare I say even better than the already perfect studio recordings. His raw vocals mixed with the acoustics of the Eventim was an experience like no other. In between songs, Tillman was cracking jokes and interacting with the crowd. I already knew his lyrics were funny, ironic, and satirical at times, but his persona on stage was no different. Now that’s pure comedy. Surprisingly, a large amount of the crowd was not jumping out of their seats to dance and sing along to such a showstopping performance. 

Next to me is Finney Garrigan (20), a university student at University College Dublin who has travelled to London just to see Father John Misty; as a longtime fan of both Tillman and Fleet Foxes, Garrigan was ready to have the time of her life. She had a list of songs she wished to hear, and although she screamed for ‘I’m Writing a Novel’ to no avail, by the end of the concert she walked out with a huge grin on her face. Garrigan says ‘I don’t care if I was the only one dancing. There’s no reason to not dance. This is one of the best, if not the best concert I’ve ever been to’. I have to agree with her; Father John Misty put on quite the show despite the dead crowd. 

Tillman performed a Father John Misty-fied version of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison as his first encore track; the song caught me, as well as the rest of the crowd, by surprise. The first riff was recognizable, but Tillman truly made the song his own; even the instruments sounded similar to those used on ‘Chloe and the Next 20th Century’ in comparison to Orbison’s original recording. He danced a bit around the stage while providing amazing vocals once again; this surprise got the crowd more excited and more people began to sing along. Something I’ve learned about Father John Misty is that he is unpredictable; whether it be through genre-bending or his ‘you’ll never guess what’s next’ setlist, Father John Misty will definitely keep you on your feet. 

The set included the opening ‘The Next 20th Century’, which happens to be the last track on his latest project. Its ominous sonics were mystifying, and although I wasn’t expecting it to be the first song played, it was the perfect way to begin the show. Some highlights of the set include ‘Nancy From Now On’, a track from his very first solo project, Fear Fun, which was both nostalgic and groovy, and also a tad bit sad lyric-wise. ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’ was played directly before ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), which happen to be some of my favorite songs of his; I may be biased, but they were also amazing live and switched well into one another. ‘Date Night’ was also a highlight; the production of this track differs greatly from most songs already played through the night and is one of Tillman’s more upbeat tracks with an enticing keyboard and electric guitar feature. ‘Pure Comedy’ is a fan staple, and the crowd began to pick up a bit at this point; I’ll admit, the waterworks may have begun to flow. The regular set ended with another classic, ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, which is the title track from his second studio album. But, the show did not end there: Tillman still had seven songs up his sleeve including the aforementioned cover of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’, ‘Buddy’s Rendezvous’, an acoustic version of the first verse and chorus of ‘Real Love Baby’, ‘Holy Sh*t’, my favorite Father John Misty song, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, ‘Hangout at the Gallows’, and ‘The Ideal Husband’.

Overall, the Father John Misty show at the Eventim Apollo was outstanding and deserves multiple standing ovations. Tillman, as well as the rest of the band, put on an amazing show that even a non-fan would enjoy. Although I already consider myself to be a fan, I would love the chance to see him again in the future and highly recommend others to attend one of his live shows.