Father John Misty dazzles with LA Philharmonic for Sound/Stage

Father John Misty with Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic
Father John Misty with Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic

Playing to an eerily empty and shadowy Hollywood Bowl, Father John Misty appeared on the latest episode of the L.A. Philharmonic’s Sound/Stage for a three-song set pulled from his fourth studio album and glorious manifesto: Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Blanketed in the black and white stream, backed by composer Gustavo Dudamel and a swathe of impeccable musicians, the scene lent itself to the old-Hollywood imagisms and big-band ecstatics dreamt up from the album.

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By the herald of a muted horn, Father John Misty dovetailed into the bittersweet nostalgia of the twinkling “Chloë,” a song that introduces the singer/songwriter’s elusive idea of a muse in a song that would sound just at home as the opening for a Broadway musical. In another universe, Chloë and the Next 20th Century might exist as such, with Father John Misty’s lucid, bemoaning narratives — his ability to invent touchstones and icons out of thin air — seeming to lend themselves to the notion that the songs lend themselves to something far more theatrical than just a concept album.

With Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic behind him, it was just Father John Misty and the music. His tales of bygone romance and whithering myths filling the empty vastness of the Hollywood Bowl in as potent a metaphor as any that might appear in Father John Misty’s own many songs about the apocalypse and Los Angeles. “Funny Girl” came next, a deliciously dreary and woefully pining piece with its string-plucking, horn wailing. But Misty saved the best melancholy for very last — offering up “Kiss Me (I Loved You)” to the night and Hollywood Hills, letting the melancholy bleed from that special quiver in his voice.

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For those still digesting Chloë and the Next 20th Century Father John Misty’s latest album is another enveloping thrust into the inner realms the artist conjures up to make sense of himself and the world around him. With every release, Father John Misty unveils them to be more vividly potent and surreal. His last album God’s Favorite Customer saw the mask start to slip, while his seminal Pure Comedy revealed just how acerbic his tongue and manifestations could be.

Needless to say if one could see Father John Misty perform all of his grandiose ballads on a stage with Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic, one would. For now, we have 14 minutes of pure bliss to delight in, and if you need more here’s a friendly reminder that Father John Misty has a live album out right now Off-Key in Hamburg that covers some of his most poignant and profound songs before Chloë and the Next 20th Century.

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For those unfamiliar, the L.A. Philharmonic started their Sound/Stage free concert series as a response to the ongoing pandemic. The series has seen artists including Ani DiFranco, Chicano Batman, Kamasi Washington, and Billie Eilish take the stage to perform on the ethereal and legendary Hollywood Bowl stage. All episodes are available for viewing completely free at the Sound/Stage series website.

Watch Father John Misty perform alongside the L.A. Philarmonic and then be sure to check out upcoming concerts like the much-anticipated celebration of John Williams’ birthday that’ll see the iconic composer taking the stage alongside Dudamel and the symphony.

Father John Misty goes on tour this summer with two stops at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The first night is already sold out but night two on August 19 is still available.

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