Writer: Abigail Rice.
In a deeply ironic ode to his newfound success, Father John Misty opened an incredible show Saturday night at the Palace Theatre with the title track from his newest album, “Pure Comedy.” Bearing an aura of refined nonchalance, Misty embodied the rock stars the baby boomers grew up idolizing.
An artist’s arrival to the mainstream signals a change in what fans expect to see. For Misty, this image expected of him, or perhaps his defiance of any particular one, was central to the show. The audience waited with bated breath to analyze his next song choice, ignoring all indications from previous shows.
With little commentary in between grandiose ballads, Misty stayed true to his cool stage presence, relying on his famously cynical lyrics to entertain. Initially, that is.
Somewhere around “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” the concert became an undeniable rock ‘n’ roll show. Falling to his knees and swinging a microphone in true Roger Daltrey fashion, layers of imposed pretension fell from him, leaving behind a genuine artist.
Despite his relieving sincerity, Father John Misty indulges his audiences, and ultimately, the images they thrust upon him. Rock star, sex symbol and cynic, he is the anti-Bob Dylan, collecting personas rather than denouncing them. In an age of unparalleled consumer choice, Misty makes none, adapting to his surroundings as he sees fit, on his own terms.
Misty seemed borderline uncomfortable performing two of the most anticipated songs of the night, “Chateau Lobby #4” and “Real Love Baby.” Unlike most of his songs, they toy with the hopefulness with which he hasn’t learned to cope. But in a way unique to him, the sweet awkwardness of those performances made them all the more genuine.
With clear, hauntingly honest songs like “Ballad of the Dying Man,” it is unsettling to look across a crowded theater and realize you are not alone. Perhaps that is the greatest irony of them all. One can’t help but feel scrutinized in Misty’s perpetually-satirizing presence, a role reversal in which the audience becomes a spectacle in Misty’s own parody. Pure. Comedy.