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Father John Misty Blesses Nashville's Mother Church

Our expectations were somewhat low for Father John Misty. We were only going because good friends are big fans and built a Nashville visit around his show at the Ryman. And he seemed like the kind of act we would like.

We dutifully listened as Spotify shuffled through his catalogue, and we were only slightly whelmed. You could tell there was something there – catchy melodies and dense, clever lyrics. But it seemed like an acquired taste that we hadn’t yet put the time in to acquire.

Then came the live show. Consider us converted.

The combination of Misty’s effortless vocal range and the big sound of his tight 10-piece band hooked us from the first notes of “Q4,” a song from his new album, "Chloe and the Next 20th Century."

How do I know it was that particular song? I looked it up, of course. You can find any setlist on the internet. The reality is, we did not know a single song in the concert. The one “hit” "Real Love Baby," was not on the setlist. For us it was like the experience of hearing a great new band for the first time. That wasn’t the case for the other 2,000 people at the Ryman, many of whom were singing along to some or all of the songs.

And what to say about Father John Misty? He is somewhere between indie rock, folk, and jazz, with an entertaining on-stage persona that folks my age might call a cross between Michael Stipe and David Byrne.

His songs have a stream-of-consciousness vibe. It's like watching a great singer and highly talented musical arranger read from his journals.

The perfect Ryman acoustics didn’t hurt – “This is such a wonderful room to sing in,” Misty said, by way of apologizing for the indulgence of playing some obscure numbers during his five-song encore.

The power of his band cannot be understated. It’s expensive to tour with a 10-piece group. And one couldn’t blame Misty for paring the sound down a little bit when he hit the road. But he seems to be an artist who wants to perform the song the way he recorded it, and the way he hears it in his head. If he hears it with multiple keyboards, multiple guitars, pedal steel guitar, two saxophones, vibes, and a trumpet, on top of the obligatory bass and drums, so be it. You have to respect that.

He also seemed to enjoy the act of performing, especially when he put his own guitar down and was able to wander the stage, often dancing. He even dropped to his knees for a few big moments, a la James Brown.

Bottom line: We’ll be back next time he is in town.


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