REVIEW: Father John Misty, The Sage Gateshead

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.
Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

It takes some incentive to tear this reviewer from the annual Eurovision bonanza, but Father John Misty at The Sage proved just that.

Much anticipated and sold out long in advance, Saturday’s night’s Hall One show marked Josh Tillman’s first headlining visit since the release of I Love You, Honeybear; his superb sophomore album, and a fixture on virtually every Best of 2015 list.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Lately, the former Fleet Fox's personality has courted as many headlines as his music, yet much of his act is precisely that – an act - and every last person in tonight's audience was in on the joke.

How near these tales of excess, ego and romantic (mis)adventures veer to Tillman’s own character is unclear, but together with his classic country sensibility and larger than life charisma, they make for a hugely compelling spectacle.

Witness, for instance, the brutal-yet-hilarious character assassination of an ex-lover on Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow, or the none-too-subtle winks and cutting sarcasm which inflict the seemingly-poignant Bored In the USA.

Decked out in his usual all-black suit, Tillman looked every bit the dapper hipster Jesus, commanding the room with all the assurance and melodrama of someone wowing a room 10 times the size. Not all of it was choreographed, either.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Frustrated by early sound issues, the singer ditched his guitar midway through the aforementioned Nothing Good, nonchalantly launching it in the direction of his (fortunately alert) technician before grabbing the mic and seamlessly indulging in that familiar godlike routine.

There was a more scripted, yet no less thrilling, surprise in the encore too, when Tillman introduced a cover of his “favourite love song".

Anyone uninitiated might have expected a tender or mawkish ballad. What we got was a marvellous rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer, blown up in all its twisted, obscene glory.

An inspired addition, it was in a sense an amalgamation of Tillman’s appeal; a magnetic, powerful and above all wildly entertaining performer wrapped in the clothing of a divisive, insolent rock ‘n’ roll maverick.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Certainly, I’ll be lucky to find a more enjoyable live show this year – and judging by their frenzied reactions I suspect the bulk of tonight's crowd would concur.

Worth missing Eurovision for? You bet!

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Father John Misty at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Carl Chambers.