Seeing Father John Misty

Waging the old crusade against consciousness.

By Margeaux Sippell

Last Wednesday, September 13, Father John Misty was playing the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.

All elegance and drama, Misty dances like the subdued lovechild of Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. His antics are purposefully comical, yet conducted with the seriousness of a born performer. Fluid movements laced with swiveling hips and thousand-yard stares aim straight into the souls of thousands.

He sings “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” lamenting in his famous, philosophical way. Pressing his hands to his face in agony, he belts the final line, “On this Godless rock that refuses to die,” before dramatically falling to his knees. Contrary to his age of thirty-six, he floats back to his feet with effortless grace. His slim, tailored black suit reveals a V of pearly skin.

“I just wanted to let you know that I’m here, and I’m thinking about you,” he says into the microphone, pulling the crowd in close. “If you have any questions, just let me know.” He thanks us profusely for coming to his show.

Misty’s voice is both husky and silken, sounding exactly like he does on the record—yet it holds a mystical power only fully revealed in person. He commands the stage effortlessly, leaning onto the mic stand as if he were an emperor and it his holy staff.

  Illustration by Enne Goldstein

Illustration by Enne Goldstein

He commands the stage effortlessly, leaning onto the mic stand as if he were an emperor and it his holy staff.

Shifting seamlessly between outrospective social commentaries and doe-eyed love songs, Misty inhabits several personalities at once. He is able to transition from crooning to screaming in seconds flat, aided by a moody light show of ecstatic purples and deep blues. He climbs up on the kick drum, then jumps down and prowls the stage, casually swinging the mic cord around his finger before draping it over his shoulders like a feather boa.

At the height of intensity, the stage is swathed in ruby red light. He brings the audience to a frenzied crescendo—and then, with one elegant swoop of the hand, the crowd falls silent, bathed in darkness.

He speaks to us as if he knows each audience member personally. Lighthearted commentary comes bubbling out of him. During a pause between Misty’s musings and the beginning of a song, just as the string section opens softly into the next tune, an unidentified man in the audience screams, “Holy Shit!” Misty shakes his head and waves at the strings to stop. With that characteristic wit that refuses to quit, Misty turns back to the audience, leans into the microphone and says, “See, when you do that, you fuck up Uncle Johnny’s show.”