It was the coldest Sunday evening of summer under a cloudy sky and beaming full moon when Father John Misty brought his “Pure Comedy” tour to the city of Bethlehem – a prophetic homecoming of sorts in it’s own right. A crowd of 2,500 or so had amassed in the cool yet eerily still summer air as they awaited the beginning of the performance that evening. There was not going to be a concert in Bethlehem that evening, not in the traditional sense of the word as that isn’t what Father John Misty is known for. Prior to the ‘Pure Comedy’ tour Misty had totted that the tour would be a musical and though that wasn’t solely true it was a performance that was hard to draw any comparisons to. Around 8:50PM the night began as an exceptionally large sized backing band took the stage amid an ghostly purple fog with the now shuttered Bethlehem Steel looming in the background behind them all.
Father John Misty walked on stage clad in a dark, sleek outfit for the evening’s gathering and immediately showcased his vocal talents as he delivered a powerful rendition of the opening track (and titled track) off the critically acclaimed ‘Pure Comedy.’ The first portion of the evening flowed together exactly as it was released for public consumption as Father John Misty led the crowd on a track by track run through of the first portion of the album. It was during the beginning third of the concert that a few things became transparent about what that moonlit evening was going to be.
Remarkably enough no one was using their cell phones in the crowd. Seemingly everyone in attendance was there to be intellectually challenged by Misty’s thought provoking artistry and valued the act of live entertainment enough to understand how detriment viewing it from a 3 inch screen is. The near 2,500 in attendance were not expecting a concert, they knew that Father John Misty was not just a persona for Josh Tillman but a persona for the shared ideology of the collective crowd. In a world that praises washed out contrived pop and senseless entertainment Father John Misty bucks that norm and not everyone is quite ready to consume the type of message he is putting out.
In the many years that Musikfest has hosted concerts in front of the now extinct Bethlehem Steel Father John Misty may have been the first to actually comment on the impact of what that monstrous figure meant to the American public. A slew of artists have remarked how “cool” the structure and space was but Misty stabbed a knife in the still fresh wound when he asked if anyone could build him a steel mic stand after his broke before delivering a snide “probably not” with a twisted cynical laugh as he carried on with the set.
Misty’s music exists apart from his ideological message though, lyrically they are bred together in the same but his raw vocal talent echoes the greats of the alternative and indie genre like Dylan or Morrissey. My generation hasn’t had a collective voice in the form of a singer-songwriter that hasn’t been anything that a major label has spat out in sometime, there are a ton of talented alternative artists out there don’t get us wrong but Father John Misty’s ‘Pure Comedy’ moved 35,000 units on release with next to no radio support. The people are longing for something grounded in reality and the timing for Father John Misty’s cynicism has never been better. 2,500 or so like minded people gathered under the moonlight to experience something genuine that Sunday evening and Musikfest was all the better for it..
It is refreshing to see a resurgence of intellect in entertainment and patrons share the same desire of fruitful content as we are in an age where scientific query is being prosecuted on a daily basis. Father John Misty left Bethlehem later that cold Sunday evening and as he did a cold rain came into the area in an almost beautiful way of his lyrics coming into fruition before our very eyes.
Hopefully one day soon a larger group of Americans will seek more fruitful entertainment and thoughtful performance – until then they have their Toby Keith, Godsmack and Band Perry to look forward to.