Father John Misty Turns In a Transcendent Performance at the Agora

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click to enlarge Father John Misty Turns In a Transcendent Performance at the Agora
Amber Patrick
Father John Misty strutted onto the Agora stage last night dressed in a stark white suit, his pants slung low on his narrow hips and his jacket slightly billowed around his slight frame. Drenched in a blood red light, guitar firmly slung over his shoulder with his six-piece band surrounding him, Misty immediately commanded attention with his 2012 hit "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings." Hiding behind dark glasses and his signature thick beard, his voice sounded strong and deep as he lured us lower into his hypnotic trance.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Misty quickly escorted us down the psychedelic maze of "Mr. Tillman," a deceptively poppy tune about being confused in a hotel lobby due to insanity or drug use or both. The former drummer of Fleet Foxes and the son of evangelical parents, Misty is a natural born performer, so it's hard to imagine him trapped behind a drum set and not front and center of the stage. Elements of his religious upbringing have clearly stuck — not the traditional religion part, but all the theatrics of an evangelical preacher. During "Total Entertainment Forever," Misty stomped, swished and swayed with his arms floating up and all around him like loose spaghetti, his dancing sprinkled with hints of Jim Morrison, his long legs awkwardly bending like a giraffe on a catwalk. His songs often scattered into a frantic search for meaning and hope — that happened during "Nancy From Now On" when the song built from a '70s throwback into a manic fever-pitch of guitars and drums and then came back down again, the mania temporarily subsiding.

Misty performed fan favorite "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" blanketed in thick purple lights and continued with "Ballad of a Dying Man" and "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow." His voice sounded soft and mellow before becoming a rough growl and then breaking into a whistle, sometimes all in a matter of mere seconds.

Up next was "Hangout at the Gallows," a song from his new album that's destined to be a Misty classic. As the night went on, themes of mental instability and loss of purpose filled the room. Misty can make you feel hopeless but also feel heard, like he has somehow crawled into your brain in the dead of night on one of those insomnia-laden nights of tossing and turning.

Misty's band left the stage to Misty and the pianist for a performance of the profoundly sad existential stream of consciousness, "When the God of Love Returns There'll Be Hell To Pay." Like a preacher on a pulpit, this was Misty's peak sermon moment but instead of condemning his congregation to feelings of shame and judgment, Misty was up there raw and defenseless, begging us to set him free of his own guilt and self torture. The somber intimacy stunned the audience into complete silence. Then, the pianist left, leaving us completely alone and unsupervised with Misty as he picked up his guitar to perform a solo acoustic version of "I Went To The Store One Day," the audience silent again except for after the lyric "Will you marry me?" when someone in the crowd enthusiastically yelled out, "Yes!"

The band returned to the stage for "Please Don't Die," another song that built into a manic crescendo, but this one had an abrupt end, making you wonder if the subject of the song did in fact die. Giving us a break from all the cerebral dread was the mellow and breezy "Real Love Baby." Then, Misty took a seat behind the piano as the stage lights turned into a planetarium of swirling blue and lavender while he launched into the title track from his new album, "God's Favorite Customer," a melancholic dream ballad that captivated the crowd; even the Agora staff members' eyes were glued to the stage. Misty left the piano and grabbed his guitar for "The Memo," a prolific song dripping in his resentment of modern narcissism. "Pure Comedy" was like a spoken word Ayahuasca trip put to a melody, "Holy Shit" was a ride wild and the set ended with the squishy lovey dovey "I Love You, Honeybear."

Misty quickly returned for his encore with "Funtimes in Babylon" before launching into the deeply seductive "The Palace," a glowing highlight from his new album. When he sang the lyric, "Last night I wrote a poem, man I must have been in the poem zone," the crowd cheered as one fan held up a homemade sign that said POEM ZONE. Misty and his band concluded the night with the folksy "Date Night."

Misty once considered making his stage name Dr. Fun. It could be easy to write him off as some flashy charming man hipster, but Misty has the talent and intellect to pull off all his unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. Watching Misty is like watching the field commander of a marching band, his microphone stand held high above his head, the end of his songs punctuated with the slam of the stand on the floor, his words tapping into the deepest pockets of your mind, all the while his voice emerging as the true star.
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