LIVE: Father John Misty @ Rough Trade East, London

For an artist whose lyricism and sardonic humour is meticulously considered, the LA crooner's relaxed Rough Trade East show was refreshingly stripped-back and a bit slapdash.
Posted: 11 April 2022 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall Photos: Down At The Front

“It’ll be a little loose”, confessed Father John Misty as he quietly introduced himself to a hushed Rough Trade East. From an artist whose lyricism and sardonic humour is meticulously considered, today’s casual setting was refreshingly stripped-back and a bit slapdash. The Los Angeles folk crooner set the tone from the off - there was going to be a few glimpses behind his droll charm and his fans (most of which were there to get their hands on precious signed records) got exactly that.

Tentatively tuning his guitar as the crowd eagerly gazed at him from less than a metre away, the informal setting was a stark contrast to the splendour of his Barbican spectacle only days before, where he was backed by Britten Sinfonia to promote his latest album Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Despite being in London’s Brick Lane for similar gains, Father John Misty actually gave the crowd an intimate greatest hits set. 

Freshly trimmed and dressed for the occasion, he played through favourites ‘Mr. Tillman’ and ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, taking time out to add context to newer numbers. Like ‘Q4’, a song inspired by seeing billboards of trashy, exploitative fiction lauded as “deeply funny” around his LA home. Fans of Father John Misty are aware of his propensity to use elaborate language to colour his lyrics, and even the word ‘turducken’ got a surprise spin today as he claimed it was the best means of describing the 'inception' of exploitation at the song’s core.

The Harry Nilsson-ish, old Hollywood glamour of his latest album understandably doesn’t translate acoustically so for the most part it gave way to tried and tested tracks of his. Though that didn’t stop a few moments of brain freeze with forgotten lyrics. Luckily front-row fans were on hand to remind him, which in turn shifted the show towards a quasi Q&A setting.

Given FJM’s reported reliance on microdosing LSD to alleviate his anxiety, he flourished being able to openly communicate with the crowd with razor-sharp wit and his typical brand of wry charm. In fact he was in his element. 

“It’s daunting doing these record store shows, surrounded by music that is objectively better than yours” he joked. Though I can’t imagine anyone in the room thought that was the case, the adept raconteur could always give standup comedy a bash.

Chloë and the Next 20th Century is out now via Sub Pop and Bella Union.

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