Father John Misty thrills fans at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Phil – Daily News
Father John Misty’s new album doesn’t arrive until April, though a pair of singles released earlier this year hinted at the lush cinematic direction of his first new collection in four years.
So, yes, it made perfect sense that for a one-off pre-release show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, the singer-songwriter known offstage as Josh Tillman would have the Philharmonic Orchestra from Los Angeles to join him on their home stage.
There’s a risk, of course, in those mashups of rock bands and orchestras you see regularly at Disney Hall, and even more so at the Hollywood Bowl. If the band is too loud, if the arrangements are too soft, it can all seem a bit pointless, watching the violins play, only hearing the guitars and drums.
This, however, was one of the greatest, with Father John Misty, his band’s eight guys and the orchestra beautifully mixing over 20 songs spread over an hour and 40 minutes.
The opening numbers, “I love you, Honeybear” and “Hangout at the Gallows”, only hinted at how well this collaboration would work. The strings were lush, the brass added depth.
With “Mr. Tillman,” however, the night began to glow, as the strings’ percussive pizzicato playing backed Tillman on his hissing outro to the tune.
“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” slipped into a Latin groove with maracas and the brass section of the orchestra behind Father John Misty’s solo trumpeter. “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” featured Tillman’s great soulful vocals on the string section.
This performance with the LA Phil was originally scheduled for two nights at the Ford Amphitheater in September before COVID concerns canceled that plan.
It could have been a blessing, however, for both the acoustics of Disney Hall and the fact that the new songs debuting on Friday gave fans a chance to get to grips with it.
“Q4,” the second single released from the upcoming “Chloë and the Next 20th Century,” came in the middle of the show. Its synthesized harpsichord melody and orchestration nailed a certain kind of 60s baroque pop style.
“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” the 2012 single that brought Father John Misty to many’s attention, followed with Tillman playing electric guitar for the one time all night, and most of his band sings. seated in favor of orchestral backing.
Highlights of the second half of the set included “Ballad of the Dying Man”, which showed off the falsetto which Tillman uses to great effect.
“Funny Girl,” a single released in January, moved back even further in musical time than “Q4.” Its arrangement sounded like part of the soundtrack to a 50s romance with the lushest orchestra, from the swelling strings at the start to the harpist-led glissando at the end.
It was followed by another of Tillman’s best compositions, “Pure Comedy”, a song that explains Tillman’s occasional comparisons to Randy Newman. (Harry Nilsson is another common touchstone, and yes, their dark, wry humor against sweet melodies is similar.)
The main set ended with “God’s Favorite Customer” and a song that starts with the word “Holy” and ends with the one we can’t print, after which the band left the stage for a while, the orchestra for good.
With just Tillman and his band for the encore, the gig ended like a rock and roll show, with fans up all night for the first time for “Total Entertainment”.
Tillman, who didn’t talk as much on stage as he often did — too bad, because he can be a very funny leader — did his usual shimmy a few times while the orchestra was behind him.
But “Date Night,” which closed the show, saw him go wild. As the band played bluesy, sax-fueled rocker not so far removed from a Rolling Stones groove, Tillman pranced and strutted like Mick Jagger, waving to cheering fans from all sides of the stage until the moment he disappeared from the scene.