On September 20, 2017, Josh Tillman, performing as Father John Misty, took the stage at Chicago’s oldest music venue, the Auditorium Theatre. The theater was built in 1890 and is one of Chicago’s most beautiful rooms. Springsteen played there in ’77, Elton John in ’79, Prince in ’82. It seats nearly 4,000 and is the second largest concert hall in the country (The Met in NYC is the largest.) It’s massive, yet intimate, with immaculate sound.
It was that setting that the 36-year-old singer-songwriter had to conquer. The room was terrifyingly silent. You could hear the slight buzz of the bass amp, the fan of the smoke machine. His 9-piece band waited in perfect stillness. Ed Steed’s (a staff illustrator at The New Yorker) illustrations began to play. Then out strut Tillman belting “Pure Comedy.” He commanded the room’s attention and moved on to “Total Entertainment Forever,” playing his acoustic guitar while singing about having virtual reality sex with Taylor Swift.
Tillman danced around the stage, his skin-tight jeans and suit jacket casting a pudgy hipster version of Nick Cave‘s silhouette. The dramatic stage graphics turned a massive bright blue earth into an exploding red ball of fire. The middle of his set wavered slightly as his lyrics turned to climate change, apocalypse, and political whining but snapped back to full force ending with a beautiful encore of “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain,” “Holy Shit,” and finally “The Ideal Husband.”