The mythical and mega-hyped tour of two contemporary songwriting legends Jason Isbell & Father John Misty was brought to San Diego’s CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre Thursday night. 

It all started with a simple line in the song ‘Mr. Tillman’, where Father John Misty (FJM) describes a hotel scene, “Jason Isbell’s here as well, and he seemed a little worried about you.”  Jason Isbell later tweeted about the lyric, confirming that the encounter actually happened.  The bit continues with the double headlining tour across the nation.

Jason Isbell at SDCCU Open Air Theater by Sylvia Borgo for ListenSD

Jason Isbell

The co-headlining both makes sense for these two artists, but also boggles the mind.  On the one hand, Jason Isbell and his band The 400 Unit played straight forward country music that is heavily influenced by rock.  Isbell’s stage presence was that of a hip and humble church dad who only talks about his 3 year old kid.  Meanwhile, Father John Misty danced all over stage while looking like a hermit in a suit that’s too big for him.  In between songs, FJM cracked jokes, trying to convince the audience that the pianos were expensive, not because the pianos themselves were expensive but because they had spent a lot of money on their faux casing.  Jason Isbell was as serious and somber as the songs he played.   

While these two artists seem like salt and pepper, what they have in common is their critically acclaimed songwriting.  Jason Isbell’s set contained songs about redemption, songs that commented on the political climate in the U.S., and also loves songs like “If We Were Vampires.” Some standouts from the night were “White Man’s World” and “24 Frames” with lines like “You thought God was an architect, now you know, He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow.”  Father John Misty’s songs are infamously more satirical, but still just as provocative as Jason Isbell’s lyrics.  He played mostly hits from his two latest albums like “Total Entertainment Forever”, “Real Love”, and of course “Mr. Tillman.”  FJM actually ended up debuting a brand new song that night, prefacing it with “Uh, here’s one you might know.” 

When Jason Isbell’s set ended, one could easily tell who was there for which artist.  An older couple sitting next to me gave him a standing ovation and then promptly left as soon as he exited the stage.  Meanwhile, there were still young people pouring in well into Father John Misty’s set.  FJM played “Writing A Novel” and “Holy Shit” for a crowd pleasing encore, which roused some excited fans to rush the barricade at the front of the arena, defying the security who were trying to get their back to their seats.  

Supporting act Jade Bird

Review by: Evan Platis
Photos by: Sylvia Borgo