Given the fans that Father John Misty attracts, it was a fitting part of town. Fashionable expats, handsome lumbersexuals, hipsters, couples, and hipster couples waited on the sidewalk. After surviving the long queue and entering a rather grand venue, they crowded onto an open ballroom floor that seemed like a throwback to a bygone era when people danced while a band played.
The setting would be a foreshadowing of things to come, as shortly after 10 p.m., Father John Misty swaggered onto the stage in a black suit and black v-neck T-shirt to “I Love You, Honeybear,” his new single. Not one to hold back or hide his flair for the dramatic, he dropped to his knees for the whole first verse. When he stood back up, he leaned his head against the wall and slammed his fists against the stage walls in a show of intensity of the lyrics.
Backed by a six-piece band—including three guitars, a keyboard, violin, and drums—Father John Misty sauntered around the stage for his 90-minute set. The most striking thing about him live isn’t his distinct vocals or his story-laden lyrics, but his lanky dancing. You see, Father John Misty is tall. Really tall. And as a general rule, American white guys don’t dance. But you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tall, lanky, American white guy swirl his hips around a stage.
Father John Misty’s dancing is simultaneously awkward, unselfconscious, funny, showy, silly, and curiously attractive. Even more impressive, his dancing goes against the ironic cool bearded guy image his appearance might suggest.
Regardless, all through “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man” there was foot-stomping, there were cheers, and there was whistling to the melancholy Americana-sounding tune.
And it wasn’t just his dancing that made for a great show. Father John Misty is funny. Before the song “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me,” he told the audience, “We’re about to get very intimate. It might be too fast, but we’re getting there.”
When watching him perform, one gets the feeling that he’s not holding anything back from the audience; one gets the feeling that he feels free to do as he pleases. He traipses and shimmies around stage, throwing dramatic mini-tantrums in conjunction with his song lyrics, and you can’t keep your eyes off him. Like with any great performer, he keeps audience members dying to see what he does next.
Father John Misty’s spirit is infectious. He got people dancing to “I’m Writing a Novel” as he bounced around. Throughout “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” and “Chateau Lobby #4,” he grabbed his crotch, threw his microphone stand around, and fell to the floor in a fit akin to catching the Holy Spirt in a gospel church.
During “The Ideal Husband,” it was almost as if he’d mainlined the ghost of Elvis. He gyrated and rocked out, building up to a shouting, screaming, hair-swinging, body-jerking sound that built so steadily it compelled one young lady to throw a pair of red panties on stage in a fittingly climatic show of approval.
For his set’s finale, “Holy Shit,” Misty stood on his band member’s drum kit, wobbling precariously at times, as the band played a crazy, scary, demonic-sounding cacophony and red lights flared. For an encore, he sang “Bored In The USA,” taking audience members’ phones and serenading their video recorders close-up. He warned those lucky few concertgoers that they’d have an endorphin rush after uploading their videos and “waiting for those likes.”
Through the next two encore songs—a Metallica cover and “Every Man Needs a Companion”—Misty continued his witty audience banter. He did lots of two-stepping and cha-cha’ing all the way to a fitting end for a concert that made even the stiffest of audience members dance so hard it looked painful. But they were probably having the time of their lives.