After releasing one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, the flamboyant sarcastic pseudonym that is Father John Misty took to touring the UK. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ takes songwriting into strange new territory. His off-the-wall lyrics are so unlike anything else. They captivate you in a way that makes you want half the album tattooed across your body, from the droll and deadpan (I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man/I mean like a God damn marching band) to the personal and poetic (My love, you’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with). But the words mean so much more when you see the man behind them in action.
Lyrics weren’t a strong point for the opening act Anna B Savage however. In fact in all honesty I think the less said about her performance the better. The songs were too sparse and melancholy to be likeable and there was little in the way of personality or performance. Vocally she sounded fine on the high notes, unfortunately she clung more to the lower register which sounded like the human equivalent of nails on a blackboard. Her music would maybe suit an independent Scandinavian horror film, but other than that I’d steer clear.
All was well with the world once more once the man himself took to the stage. Within just the first verse of Honeybear it already felt like a night to remember. He simply oozes stage presence, whether he’s strutting about across the stage, dad-dancing on top of the drum kit or bantering back and forth with the Yorkshire audience. The (slightly dodgy) lighting had trouble to keep up with his boundless energy. He has an aura of poetic cynicism around him that reminds me of Jim Morrison, the kind of effortless cool that most can only dream of. The rest of the band took a step back, played precisely what the song needed to have an arresting melody, and acted as a canvas for his colourful character.
The setlist showed off the musical range as well as the lyrics. From the old school rock and roll of ‘I’m Writing a Novel’, to the electronic shuffle of ‘True Affection’, to the furious wailing guitars of ‘The Ideal Husband’. Things were stripped back for the piano ballad ‘Bored in the USA’ which featured Misty borrowing a fan’s phone to film himself singing, and demanding that the video isn’t deleted. For a man whose music has such a cynical view of the world, Father John Misty seemed genuinely delighted to be there. His charm and energy was infectious, his dry wit kept everyone in high spirits and the crowd hung on his every word. The size of the venue didn’t matter, he performed as if the whole world was watching. It a shame the rest of the world wasn’t watching, they certainly missed out on something special.