Father John Misty @ The Fillmore - 1/24/13 - photo by Paige K. Parsons

In some ways, pairing The Walkmen with Father John Misty is the perfect bill, as both acts have a similar two-bottles-of-wine flavor to them. From Joshua Tillman’s (aka Father John) gyrating hips, which call to mind a hippie impersonation of Mick Jagger, to Hamilton Leithauser’s comforting drawl, each band brought a level of confidence that invigorated Thursday night’s sold out crowd at The Fillmore.

Current indie-folk darlings Father John Misty have found the sweet spot between try-too-hard Americana groups (see: Alabama Mumford Shakes) and the now defunct literary indie rock of bands like The Decemberists. Half the crowd appeared to be there solely to watch FJM. Speaking to his confidence, Tillman took full advantage of the attention: shaking his hips, crooning on his knees, sweeping his hair back in dramatic gestures, and smirking with little jokes after songs.

FJM closed their set with the downtrodden but catchy “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” from their 2012 album Fear Fun; it was a fitting tribute to the headliners, who build songs from the tune of both triumph and desperation.

The Walkmen are indie rock veterans at this point — they released their first album Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone in 2002. Their most recent effort, 2012’s Heaven, continues to improve upon the band’s unusual formula by capturing a nostalgic look at love and love-lost, supported by swaying guitar melodies and Leithauser’s startling transitions from crooning to stressful yelling and back again.

In addition to bringing a full horn section out for “Stranded” and “Louisiana,” the band played songs from every one one of their albums, ending the show with their first hit, the wistful electric piano ballad “We’ve Been Had.” Showstopper “The Rat”, off Bows + Arrows, proved that The Walkmen still rock. When the chorus dropped, Leithauser leaned back, his coiled body grasping for air, and forced out the words — his voice hanging just a note away from breaking down entirely.

But album centerpiece “Heaven” stole the show, the song a touching tribute to love, centered around a heartbreakingly simple lyric: “Don’t leave me now / you’re my best friend / all of my life you’ve always been.” For the last half the song, Leithauser stopped singing lyrics and merely chanted along, ooh woah ooh, until the song faded away and the lights went black and a brilliant band from New York City began to play another song, leaving us all with a fleeting moment to consider who will join us in our own version of heaven. One thing is certain — The Walkmen would make one hell of a house band.

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The Walkmen Setlist:

On The Water
In The New Year
The Rat
Woe is Me
The Witch
Line By Line
Blue As Your Blood
Angela Surf City
Stranded
I Lost You
Juveniles
138th Street
We Can’t Be Beat
Heaven

Encore:
Louisiana
We’ve Been Had

Father John Misty Setlist:

Only Son of the Ladies’ Man
Nancy From Now On
I’m Writing a Novel
Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2
This is Sally Hatchet
Well, You Can Do It Without Me
Now I’m Learning to Love the War
Tee Pees 1-12
Every Man Needs a Companion
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

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