Photos and Review by Stephen Bloch
There are many artists out there that leave one scratching their heads about what genre they fit in and what kind of vibe they are trying to portray. One such artist is Father John Misty, an unabashed thinker, whose five albums all have their uniqueness and and in some respects fit into the “concept album” category. On Monday evening, Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater played host to Josh Tillman/J Tillman, aka Father John Misty, for a romp through his exceptionally deep catalog of indie rock, folk, rock, and jazzy crooner cuts from his current release Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Prior to taking the stage, singer/model Suki Waterhouse played an entertaining 30 minute set to a mostly sold out theater. Her lithe appearance and sultry indie sound kept everyone’s attention. Tillman made it clear on Monday that Chloë was written during the dark times of the pandemic and that he “didn’t want to subject fans to jazz material while touring.” I think most will agree that the material is more than welcome in his robust sets. The highlights from that album came from “Goodbye Mr. Blue”, a song about a deceased cat, and “The Next 20th Century”, which is a bombastic, psychedelic, and soaring song that seems to be a stream of consciousness journey about the challenges of love in a society driven by money and possessions.
As a self-proclaimed setlist watcher, I had some idea about what was in store for the audience, but predictions were thrown right out the window early on and later validated by Tillman exclaimed “we played a really tight set tonight. Well not really-we mixed it up, because we knew Milwaukee could handle it.” Refreshing! Highlights came at all points of the evening, including “Mr. Tillman” and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (FJM played TWO shows there in August). The heavy dose of tracks from I Love You, Honeybear, included “Chateau Lobby #4”, “I Love You, Honeybear”, and encore opener “Holy Shit” among others. Midway through the encore, Tillman made a query about whether we wanted to hear “Pure Comedy”. He said he would play it because it’s such a great song. We all agreed. The evening closed with “I’m Writing a Novel” which brought the crowd to their feet.
Tillman/Father John Misty is certainly an enigmatic artist who’s as much a wordsmith as he is an entertainer. He has a schtick, but it’s a genuine one. He’s a thoughtful songwriter and seems to love being on stage; he moves with urgency and fluidity that match his singing.