I’d never visited the Portsmouth Guildhall in the entire time I’ve lived in Portsmouth until I went to see one of my favourite artists, singer-songwriter Father John Misty, perform on Sunday 28th October. The first thing that struck me about the venue was how surprisingly intimate it was for a such a large and imposing building, having passed by it on many occasions, I never imagined the gig would be quite so personal.
Standing about four rows back into the crowd of people gathered to see him perform, as the lights dimmed and opening act, Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Bedouine, stepped onto the stage. Dressed in all white garb, the evening suddenly became nice and relaxed. Being unfamiliar with Bedouine before that evening, I was charmed by her quick wit and became absolutely enamoured by her plucky guitar playing and soft, angelic vocals.
Playing from a selection of tracks off of her debut album, including one song in her native Armenian, a particular highlight was when before one of her songs she asked people to start making out “consensually, of course” while she sang, in what turned out to be a bitter-sweet love song. Perhaps my favourite moment from the opening set came when Bedouine covered Elton John’s ‘Come Down in Time’, which was a lovely rendition of a song I was not overly familiar with but immediately fell in love with after her enchanting cover.
Something particularly fantastic about the evening was the lighting, which perfectly captured the mood for not just Bedouine’s performance, casting her in an almost holy glow, but for the entirety of Father John Misty’s performance. Stepping out shortly after Bedouine finished her set, Misty, real name Josh Tillman, opened with one of his most popular tracks off his debut album Fear Fun, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’. The crowd was lively, and the acoustics in the venue provided a fantastic atmosphere. It was a little while until Mr. Tillman addressed his audience, but when he did he regaled the crowd with his theory about why we ‘woo’ during gigs.
Throughout the evening Father John Misty proved himself to be in top form, perfectly blending his softer, more cutting edge songs with his shout-filled romps, throwing himself about the stage, smashing his microphone stand on multiple occasions. Whilst every song was performed fantastically, particular highlights included ‘Only Son of the Ladiesman’, ‘When The God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay’ and ‘Real Love Baby’ – the latter being summed up by Father John Misty as being written at maybe the lowest point of his life, and now people dance wildly to it, which is something that said made him happy. The whole performance was littered with funny musings and moments; the showman, clad in an all-white suit, drew a likeness to some sort of new-age hippy pastor.
Of course there was an encore, how could have there not have been? Josh mocked the inherent ridiculousness of there always being an encore at gigs like this; after walking back on stage he thanked the crowd and said “this never happens”. He then followed it up with a trilogy of songs that perhaps best sum up his discography; ‘The Palace’, a sad and depressing number, ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, a sickly-sweet ballad dedicated to his wife Emma, and my favourite performance of the night, ‘Date Night’ – a song I find impossible not to dance to, Father John Misty screamed and shouted the closing number, leaving the audience begging for more as any sardonic troubadour worth his salt should.