Live Report: J. Tillman @ Music Box Theatre


6 November 2009

Minneapolis, MN


This is a show I went to after hearing just one song by J. Tillman, called “Though I Have Wronged You”. It’s got spare acoustic strumming, hushed vocals,  three-part harmony… these kinds of things usually find their way to my ears, and then I don’t rest until I’ve seen the artist live.

Funny, then, that I still have yet to see Josh Tillman’s other gig — the Fleet Foxes — for whom he is drummer. Their album was certainly a nice surprise last year, and I had at least one chance to see them in San Diego that came and went (don’t ask me how many times that happened in grad school!).

As a consequence, my interest in the Foxes is unfortunately waning. Until I see the live show and witness the passion Robin Pecknold puts behind those pastoral-ass lyrics, I have no other point of reference besides the performances on the album (which, after many listens, are sounding WAY to reverb-y)

Anyway, even if I never get to see Fleet Foxes live, it was a treat to see J. Tillman, whose performance brings an earthiness and beauty I expect accompanies a typical Foxes’ set. Also, since few fans of the buzz band have likely ever heard of Tillman, I got to see him at an extremely intimate venue, the Music Box Theatre. A proper playhouse with a balcony, the crowd only took up the seats right in front of the stage, so it felt like a private staging.  The sound was just right… can’t really use the word “warm” enough to describe it. It was like we were wearing long johns and snuggies but were all still sharing a big blanket and lounging by a fire. (Good enough?)

I suffered a bit from not knowing more of J. Tillman’s songs, and the slow, drony melodies tended to make all the tunes sound the same (the inverse of the “all album, no show” dilemma?). But I was delighted toward the end of the set when he broke into “Though I Have Wronged You”, the one song I knew, and gave it an unexpected, rocking coda, courtesy of his 4-piece touring band. Also, after I got home and downloaded his most recent album, Year in the Kingdom (a steal on emusic), I was delighted to discover that same warmth on record.


Check out the super-weird video for “Though I Have Wronged You”


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