Saturday, August 13, Father John Misty played The Orpheum Theater, a nearly century-old Beaux Arts theater in the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District. The capacity is just over 1400, with standing room on the main floor and reserved seating in the loge, balcony and gallery. I had a center aisle seat in the balcony, a great vantage point for the stage. Although the balcony has the gallery above it, the sound was still good and clear.
Unlike many concerts I attended in Nashville where I would get two tickets and find a plus one, I bought a single ticket not wanting to count on anyone else being quite as interested in FJM as I am. But happily, when I posted I was attending, my good friend and former Nashville running buddy, Mary Vyrostek Dwyer said she and her sister Annie wanted to join me - no easy feat as Mary lives in Montana and Annie is in Wisconsin.
We made plans for dinner before the show and picked a restaurant right across the street from the venue, Dominica in the Roosevelt Hotel. The food was good but the room was noisy. Fortunately, we were tucked away in a corner so it was a bit easier to catch up.
We timed it just right to miss the opener (no offense to Suki Waterhouse but that's not who we were there to see) and walked across the street to the theater. It's lovely but not overly ornate; the seating was comfortable if a bit tight in the leg room so people getting up and coming back were a bit of a distraction. But not enough to spoil the show.
A few years ago, I saw Father John Misty in New Orleans. Coincidentally, he was playing the Civic Theater the night before my niece's wedding in NoLa. I've also seen him in Nashville. The difference between the two audiences could not have been more apparent. I had forgotten that so it was a thrilling rediscovery. The Nashville crowds can be unrelentingly cool - enjoying a show means something different there. The New Orleans crowd, at least for this artist, means singing along with gusto to almost every song, even the new ones, and cheering throughout the entire show at a Beatles-level frenzy. No, not cheering... screaming. Amazing.
Father John Misty is on tour for his latest album, Chloe and the Next 20th Century. I always say about him if you like him, you'll like his newest album or latest tour. Conversely, if you don't, you won't. The man tends to be, shall we say, consistent. But this album has a feel of existing in a haunted ballroom from the 1930. From the stage, Josh (Tillman, his given name) mentioned that he recorded an album specifically that could never be toured. He did it anyway and with a large band of multi-instrumentalists. Loads of keyboards (almost everyone but the drummer had one), guitar switching, a horn section where the trumpeter played the flute and marimba, the saxes played flute and clarinet and many of them sang backing vocals. Impressive but never intrusive. Even his dancing was different (and he does fancy himself a good dancer) with more tippy-toeing soft shoe moves that that of a rock icon of past tours.
Along with quite a few songs from the new album including Funny Girl and Goodbye Mr. Blue, he satisfied the audience (and me) with some favorites from previous albums, like Mr. Tillman, I'm Writing a Novel, I Love You Honeybear and Hollywood Forever Cemetery. But FJM brought the room to silence with the first song of the encore, performed with just him and his piano player, The Songwriter. So beautiful.
After another four songs in the encore, the show was over. As far as I could tell, for the most part, the crowd stayed until the end. If people were cutting out after the "hits," I didn't see it. They were there FOR him, and he for them. For us. He said, "Are you enjoying yourselves? I'm enjoying myself." And he really did seem to be. No moody brooding introspection of the past; no rants, insults or political statements.
Just good songs, well sung and played to an audience who was in love with Father John Misty.
Photos by Mary Vyrostek Dwyer