It’s been just 18 months since Father John Misty – real name Josh Tillman – played Glasgow’s O2 Academy, but there is still fevered anticipation for this show in support of Misty’s critically acclaimed third album, Pure Comedy. Despite the fact that the venue is sold out, there is a sense that this is a reverential gathering of devoted fans. As Marie-Claire Jones writes on Twitter afterwards, ‘Being an FJM fan is a bit like being in a cult, but I’m ok with it’.
Pure Comedy is an album that must be heard live in order to be fully experienced. Just as impressive as Tillman’s rich, warm voice is his band, which has the skill and intensity to perfectly complement the theatrics of its charismatic showman. The album’s titular opening number has echoes of Rufus Wainwright with its lush orchestrations, swelling with drama and power.
Tillman is not as playful as he was during his last outing at the O2 Academy, which befits the more serious tone of his new album. Pure Comedy skewers the absurdity and futility of modern life, politics, religion and social media with its acerbic and often hilarious lyrics. However, Tillman still dances with total abandon and falls to his knees as he performs songs from all three Father John Misty albums for just under two hours.
It’s also remarkable how many fans know all the lyrics to his songs, given their poetic richness and depth. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ is an exhilarating, stand-out moment, as the crowd raises their arms and sways along to Misty’s post-apocalyptic love song. The lines “Everything is doomed/and nothing will be spared/but I love you, honeybear” become cathartic when they are sung by 2,500 people in unison.
Tillman also knows how to engage with his audience: he takes a moment to acknowledge “the middle-aged dudes on the balcony”. “That’s why I got into this game” he deadpans. Later, when a group of young female fans request that he plays ‘Tee Pees 1-12’ from Father John Misty’s first album Fear Fun, he obliges by singing a few verses on his guitar. “How’s that?” he smiles, while they swoon in delight at the barrier.
After Tillman delivers a four song encore to a rapturous reception, the euphoric crowd heads to the exits. As word spreads about his electrifying live performances, it’s clear that Father John Misty will soon be preaching to the converted.