Father John Misty made Denver want to get on their knees... and pray.
Father John Misty (the pelvic-thrusting creation of J.Tillman) preached from his neon hued rock pulpit at the Ogden Theater last week. And while worship doesn’t even begin to describe his semi-creepy teen-girl fanbase, I have to say: I get it. This guy puts on a striking show.
Backed by an incredible six-piece band (of which I can’t find the official lineup anywhere), FJM opened his Thursday night spectacle with the title track on his recent album I Love You Honeybear. As he sauntered around the stage belting ‘honeybear/honeybear’, he threw his mic stand on his shoulders like a crucified Jesus illuminated in dark red hues. And then- darkness. Slowly, the stage lights started strobing as Father John and his band were sillhouetted against a red-velvet curtain jamming “True Affection”. FJM’s drummer kicked off this trippy scene, playing what sounded like a Roland 808 and causing a visual cadence that I can only describe as how I would feel if I were transported into the scenes of the I Love You Honeybear vinyl insert. We had entered J. Tillman’s magnetically strange world.
FJM continued on with a mix of songs, some from Fear Fun. He locked eyes with several girls in the front row, belting at them with his clear green gaze during “Only Son of a Ladies Man”. The catcalls erupted, to which he remarked, “The catcall is the equivalent of saying ‘take it off’ and ‘freebird’ all in one.” As the crowd giggled and chattered, he pouted seriously and quipped, “Hey- give me some ambiance for this next one. Be quiet. You’ll appreciate it.” It’s moments like these that you don’t know whether to be in awe of this groovy 1970s folk rock god or to find him pretentious and attention hungry. But I think that’s exactly the line that J. Tillman wants you to stand on with his created persona. After all, he’s referred to FJM as just an “experimental gag”.
Towering above us with his long, lanky frame, Tillman whipped his mic around in circles and at one point dramatically noosed himself with it as thick guitar strums coaxed us into “Ideal Husband” and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Songs.” At one point he climbed over the stage barrier, crooning to the crowd. Instantly, fan-hands covered him, stroking his beard and grappling at his clothes. The electrically sexual energy in the air was impossible not to breathe in.
To close the Father John Misty Thursday Night Service, the venerated group left us with a bangin’ drum solo meets killer string parts on “Holy Shit” and then reappeared for a three-song encore. The crowd provided the canned laughter for the drippingly satirical “Bored in the USA”, which was followed by an appropriate Leonard Cohen cover of “I’m Your Man”. And finally, FJM baptized us with “Everyman Needs a Companion” after which he jumped off the stage and proceeded to take selfies with fans, sign autographs, and generally be an awesome, approachable performer. Well done, Father. I’ll watch you preach anytime.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.