Early this year I saw Father John Misty open for the Walkmen at the Capitol Theater. At the time I was unfamiliar with Joshua Tillman and unaware of his connection to Fleet Foxes. Tillman poured his energy into the crowd, taking advantage of a full backing band to expend his energy on singing and engaging the audience. The most surprising thing to come from that show was not the performance itself but how quickly the crowd, mostly hipster twenty-somethings, dispersed at the end of his set and did not return. This kind of loyalty and dedicated following led to a packed house at High Noon Saloon on Sunday.
In an unusual move, comedian Kate Berlant opened the evening. Her delivery was reminiscent of Sarah Silverman but sillier and much milder in tone and choice of subject. Despite a slow beginning she gained momentum and finished strong with a series of improvs based on pictures projected on the back of the stage.
Tillman took the stage alone but he didn’t need any support in capturing the audience. His voice was big and strong, his playing confident and joyful. Between songs he chatted and joked and made the audience fall in love with him. After singing “Nancy From Now On” he talked about watching YouTube covers of the song and how no one ever got the first line right. He demonstrated, using a voice that channelled Eddie Vedder — “Once you crack that Eddie Vedder door it’s hard to shut,” he said before slipping a growled “gurl” in the next song.
Hearing lyrics can often be difficult at live shows but Tillman’s voice rang clearly through the building. His carefully crafted words were delivered with a self-depreciating posture, all the while entertaining and enjoyable. The sound quality at High Noon is worth mentioning here — no matter if it’s a local favorite, a touring Midwestern band, or a larger national act, it always sounds good at High Noon.
At the end of his set, Tillman left the stage only to return moments later, poking fun at the elaborate game of encore at some shows. He and his guitar were all the audience wanted, and he delivered.