Josh Tillman is a fantastic performer, which is especially interesting because mocks the art of performing the entire time Father John Misty is on stage. He flips his wrists and shakes his hips like a tired stripper, which lends a disarming sense of nonchalance to the act. The stage banter, as I learned when I interviewed Tillman for The Oregonian last spring, is something he thinks a lot about and two performances in Portland last week offered just a taste of what fans on the SS Coachella can expect.
When you’re playing essentially the same songs at every show, the stage banter is an often under utilized venue for variance. Tillman kicked off his performance at the Wonder Ballroom with “Funtimes in Babylon” and a shout out to recently arrested Fiona Apple. He proceeded in classic, caustic style to tell the audience to “Shut up and let me entertain,” and “I want you to fucking dance right now.” Tillman offered a begrudging “Thanks for coming,” and explained, “It’s hard to say earnest things into a microphone.”
I’m told that earlier in the day at the Bing Lounge, Tillman grabbed some nearby logo signs and held them in front of his face while giving the crowd the bird. The audience eats this up, both because it’s surprising, and because Father John Misty is tight as hell and sounds absolutely perfect live. As Tillman swigged a Stella Artois through the Wonder Ballroom set, I kept waiting for his voice to crack or miss a note, but he never did.
This iconoclast routine should be in rare form on the SS Coachella. I can’t wait to see what Tillman does with the schlocky- band-on-a-cruise-ship cliche he will inevitably address. Furthermore, fans who paid hundreds of dollars to be on that ship might as well have targets on their foreheads. They’ll be rewarded for their expense with what is sure to be some of Tillman’s best stage banter to date.
Image: Tillman performs in Seattle by Amber Zbitnoff of ssgmusic.com.