By Jim Easterhouse

Moments before Father John Misty returned to a Chicago stage for the first time since May, XRT DJ Marty Lennartz illustrated the artist’s significance to the Auditorium Theatre audience.

“We’re lucky to see him again,” Lennartz said in his introduction, adding that Father John Misty, born Joshua Tillman, is “one of the most compelling artists.”

fjm 1 Father John Misty Proves Why Hes One Of The Most Compelling Artists In Return To Chicago

(Photo Jim Easterhouse)

Father John Misty’s allure has transcended through his 2017 release,
Pure Comedy, a nearly 75-minute epic encompassing societal critiques of a culture with moral depravity and futuristic tendencies that’s on the cusp of a dystopia. The depth of this record has cemented Father John Misty as one of the leading voices in the music community on the current zeitgeist.

For a performer whose societal takes have elevated to the limelight of late night television, short films, and countless headlines, Father John Misty’s delivery of his stacked catalog on Wednesday night resonated most.

The former Fleet Foxes drummer told Lennartz at XRT’s BlueCross BlueShield Performance Stage in May that, “the stage is a safe place.” As Misty’s 24-song set list revealed, the stage remains a platform for Misty to seamlessly intersect differing songs from his repertoire that tackle the complexities of aging, existentialism, and love.

fjm 4 Father John Misty Proves Why Hes One Of The Most Compelling Artists In Return To Chicago

(Photo Jim Easterhouse)

Extending his tour off of Pure Comedy, as he did for his 93XRT show at the Chicago Theatre in May, Misty initiated his set on Wednesday with four tracks off of the April release, including “Pure Comedy,” “Total Entertainment Forever,” “Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution,” and “Ballad of the Dying Man.”

Unlike his Chicago Theatre concert, a string ensemble was absent at the Auditorium Theatre, although nine musicians still accompanied Father John Misty on stage. While the absence of the string section did not deter from the effectiveness of the set, it limited the portrayal of the expansiveness of Father John Misty’s musical arrangements in comparison.

Rather than proceeding through the remaining exact order of the Pure Comedy track list, Father John Misty opted into an array of songs spanning across his first two releases, 2012’s Fear Fun and 2015’s
I Love You, Honeybear. “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” and “Only Son of the Ladiesman” ignited sing-along responses from Auditorium Theatre attendees. “When The God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay” pinned the audience in silence, as Misty dissected human nature and eternal judgement.

fjm 3 Father John Misty Proves Why Hes One Of The Most Compelling Artists In Return To Chicago

(Photo Jim Easterhouse)

While Father John Misty’s songs expose a thorough sense of vulnerability and combating the unknown, his rendition of
“When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” soon after that highlighted his own humility on Wednesday night. After delaying the first verse of the song behind its instrumentals, Misty admitted, while vocally accompanying the melody, that he had botched the lyrics. This moment, along with thanking the “mayor” in the audience who screamingly welcomed the artist to Chicago, painted the full scope of Father John Misty, a humorous intellect who isn’t afraid to acknowledge reality, no matter how awkward or dire it may be.

Father John Misty continued to open up through the last half of his set, declaring “I’m going to deprive you of a deep D-side,” to the audience before delivering “This Is Sally Hatchet” and “Bored In The U.S.A.” The latter especially roused attendees in agreement with the “useless education” that Misty mocks on the track.

After evoking his soulfulness and capping off his set with “Real Love Baby” and “I Love You, Honeybear,” Misty signaled to a pleading fan that he would leave the stage, return for a few songs, and then officially complete the concert. In addition to admitting that “this is not as spontaneous as it looks,” before starting his encore with “So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain.”

Father John Misty’s self-awareness proved to attendees the authenticity of his artistry and the lasting power of his complex perspectives.

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