The showmanship that Josh Tillman brings to the stage - a sort of psychedelic shaman lounge-act - elevates his witty, catchy songs to a new level.
There's plenty of absurd humor in the Father John Misty persona that Tillman created for his eighth solo album, a radical departure from his previous singer-songwriter sound. Fear Fun is a playful take on orchestral folk-rock, but neither the album nor Tillman's live performance would captivate if the songwriting wasn't so strong.
Opening with "Funtimes in Babylon," Tillman led his band - drums, bass, keyboards and two guitarists - through nearly the entire album. Throughout, Tillman held the spotlight, swinging his white microphone stand, dancing, swaggering, miming the lyrics, striking poses, falling to his knees, hip swiveling, pelvic thrusting and even kissing a hand from the crowd.
Next up was the outstanding "Only Son of the Ladiesman," a song that exemplifies all the talents that Tillman brings to Fear Fun: compelling lyrics, vocals that shine even more as a frontman than his harmony in Fleet Foxes did, skilled arrangements and a great sense of melody.
Tillman picked up his own acoustic guitar for "I'm Writing a Novel," the somewhat true and somewhat embellished story of his move from Seattle to Los Angeles and subsequent transformation into Father John Misty.
Performing on his 32nd birthday, Tillman received plenty of "happy birthday" shouts from the crowd, but he directed the ubiquitous birthday song to an audience member. He joked plenty during the set - "I know how much it means to miss the Fifth Annual Agave Fest" serves as a good example of his wry humor.
Other highlights were "This Is Sally Hatchet," which showcased his band dipping into a deep psychedelic jam, with overhead strobe lights flashing like lightning; "Tee Pees 1-12," a country shuffle in the cosmic hippie spirit of Gram Parsons; and the spooky single "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings."
Tillman closed with a two song encore - the new "I Love You, Honey Bear," which bodes well for a second Father John Misty record, and a well-presented cover of "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."
Locals Fur Family opened, playing a groovy rock, with two drummers, upright bass and dialed-in harmonies.