Father John Misty @ XOYO, London 22.11.12

Joshua Tillman walks onstage with a bottle of beer and a bottle of whiskey. It's Thanksgiving back home in America, and he's going to celebrate. "Let's give thanks that two thousand years ago President Jesus gathered enough Electoral College votes to kick Satan out of office," he says, his tone heavy with sarcasm. He's performing here tonight as Father John Misty, and he's charming as all hell.

Nov 22nd, 2012 at XOYO, London / By Novak Hunter
Father John Misty His new album Fear Fun translates beautifully onstage, the gentle echoes of country faultlessly matching the strength of Tillman's voice. As the gig progresses and he chugs happily from the bottle of Jameson, his hips start swinging a little wider and his banter gets a little more unpredictable. Despite this, his incredible voice never falters in its effortlessness. You get the feeling he could do it in his sleep, or at least in a boozy stupor.

He also appears to not understand the purpose of the empty booth next to the stage. It's for DJs, and it just happens to out of use tonight. Yet throughout the show he repeatedly finds reason to abuse the brickwork structure in the most personal terms before eventually jumping onto it so he can pretend it's a puppet theatre. He's a magnetic presence on stage, dancing, wisecracking and kissing his band mates. If women are throwing their bras at him, I can't see it happening. Yet he's definitely producing bras from somewhere, and happily tossing them out into the crowd. There's a rare power and sexuality to his performance, a stage presence that makes it hard to take your eyes off him as he twirls around breezily.

At times he comes across a little dark and egotistical, like during his unnecessarily lengthy and mean-spirited takedown of an overenthusiastic punter who attempted a sing-along during ‘Well, You Can Do It Without Me’ ("I'm the only person here who flew across the Atlantic to entertain you" - perhaps he temporarily forgot about his highly talented band mates?) but on the whole he was a thrilling spectacle; loose, fun, and engagingly shambolic.

The melodies and vocal hooks of tracks like ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ and ‘Nancy From Now On’ hold up the first half of the show with ease, but the real highlight is the wildman rock of the last 20 minutes, including a droning, dirty version of Canned Heat's ‘On The Road Again’ that closes the encore with a rawness that's not so evident on his recorded work, but makes for a welcome and unexpected departure.

The band was tight and focussed with a great visual presence, and thankfully Tillman's antics and charisma are on the right side of the boundary between showmanship and diversion, bolstering the music rather than overshadowing it. He might have missed Thanksgiving but at least he played an amazing show. Hopefully he can take some comfort in that.