Live Review: Father John Misty, Angie McMahon

25 July 2017 | 4:28 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"If the performance finished after just one song, we would already feel as if our ticket money was well spent."

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"I'm gonna play you some depressing songs," opening act Angie McMahon promises, standing behind a beautiful vintage guitar that she later explains was shipped over from the States. Soon is a gorgeous song she explains was penned with the intention of commemorating her parents' 25th wedding anniversary, but ended up being mostly about her (except for one line). When soaring high, McMahon's vocal tone evokes Linda Ronstadt. As winner of the 2017 Josh Pyke Partnership, McMahon tells us she has a new single due out soon and we'll be keeping a keen ear out for it.

As Father John Misty's backing band members sombrely file out onto the stage the crowd explode into cheers when they spy The Man Himself's towering presence. Subtle piano accompaniment and sinister cartoon images from the official Pure Comedy video signal this song will be Father John Misty's opener. As Josh Tillman navigates the absurdity of the human condition through song, his delivery is conversational with gestures much like an eccentric television presenter: "I hate to say it, but each other's all we've got." If the performance finished after just one song, we would already feel as if our ticket money was well spent.

The knees of Tillman's skinny black jeans are discoloured/worn out and after his first few dramatic knee drops we can immediately see why. If Tillman pranced towards you on the dancefloor, you may initially be afraid but we suspect you would definitely succumb and dance/cavort with him. Tillman prances across the stage, employing the occasional step ball change or sudden back bend, sometimes pausing to slowly drape one endlessly long arm across his head. After pondering this generation's fascination with facial hair, Tillman tells us he'll get back to us with his findings shortly. And when he eventually does, Tillman opines, "We all know that the moustache is the universal symbol of paedophilia". The melodically limber Strange Encounter is a set highlight. Tillman's lyrics boast imaginative rhymes ("It's nothing but teens in ravines") and his impressive vocabulary sees the words "edifice", "transcendence" and "paradigm" all featured within a single song. 

There's a squall of feedback and Tillman jests, "This is the noise-jazz portion of the evening". "Anyway, let's carry on with songs of despair," Tillman continues into Nancy From Now On. Lighting design is striking and varied throughout, visuals totally changing up from one song to the next, and a mountain-range sunset makes an exquisite backdrop as Tillman sings behind the mic stand with one hand behind his back while the other gesticulates. Some adoring punters jump outta their seats for Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings (the one that goes, "Je-e-e-e-e-sus Chri-ist, girl") and dance with rapture. Tillman encourages us to all rise and we happily do so for I Love You, Honey Bear while Tillman drops to his knees on the stage's edge and reaches out to touch chosen faces in the crowd while delivering saucy lyrics.

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The band leave the stage, but the audience is having none of it so we stomp, clap and demand an encore. Once back on stage, Tillman jokes that since we all just stood up, rather than a civilised encore he's gonna just play us "a bunch of bangers". One of their encore songs, Real Love Baby, is an upbeat treat that's probably about as close as Father John Misty gets to a "banger"; it evokes Kokomo by The Beach Boys. Once the music stops, Tillman waves to the crowd and winks by way of thanks, and it's as if he's dropped the Father John Misty persona even before he's left the stage.