Love or hate his schtick, you can’t deny Father John Misty’s attention-grabbing abilities; the man’s good at forcing a reaction out of you. After taking the world by storm with his newfound alter-ego’s first album, 2012’s Fear Fun, Josh Tillman is back for round two.

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

The new album I Love You Honeybear comes out February 10th, and the first leg of a world tour is booked with no end in sight, with stops at Coachella and several major UK festivals along the way.

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

Northern California was picked as the lucky locale for three intimate “warm up/sneak preview” shows before the publicity and touring juggernaut truly gets underway next month; an opportunity for Tillman to road test his new songs and backing band in front of a (mostly) friendly audience.

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

LIVE caught the middle of the three shows, which took place in Sonoma’s beautiful wine country, and we were pleased to see that Tillman hasn’t abandoned his on-stage persona that got so many people paying attention in the first place. He worked the stage from end to end, made plenty of his trademark wry and sarcastic meta-commentary, and generally was in fine confrontational form.

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

This was your typical “work out the kinks” show, with long pauses between songs and a few missed changes, but it did not detract at all. If anything it was endearing to see this new band in it’s primordial phase. Tillman acknowledged the nature of the gig very early on — not that he was making any sort of apology. The new songs went over very well and felt right at home alongside the older songs in the set, as did a show stopping cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”.

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

FATHER JOHN MISTY @ SONOMA VETERAN’S MEMORIAL HALL, SONOMA, CA 1.17.15

His new backing band featured some instruments not seen in the previous iteration, like a fiddle and a keytar, so most of the songs from Fear Fun were rearranged in some form or another, which might take some getting used to for pre-existing fanatics. With two albums worth of material to fill a set, the muscular 10 minute psych-freakouts are gone — a kinder, softer sound has taken its place. It will be interesting to see how the band’s sound develops over the course of the year as their confidence grows, but whatever the case, you can rest assured Father John Misty will always be the center of attention–commanding your attention as only he can.

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The album is available for preorder now, and is selling alongside totebags with the word “cum” on them. Either one should make a great Valentine’s Day gift for your very own honeybear.

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