A password will be e-mailed to you.

Photo by CJ Foeckler It’s ironic that an adored actress and a critically acclaimed musician would choose to join forces under the anonymity of the name She & Him, but after seeing Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward and Co. perform Friday night at The Riverside, it was clear that the two have willingly sacrificed their respective […]




Photo by CJ Foeckler

It’s ironic that an adored actress and a critically acclaimed
musician would choose to join forces under the anonymity of the name She &
Him, but after seeing Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward and Co. perform Friday night at
The Riverside, it was clear that the two have willingly sacrificed their
respective “identities” in order to bear forth the pop music handed down to
them from a long tradition.

So, not surprisingly, the music – all sunny pop and delicate
serenades – was spot-on, but the performance lacked anything really definite to
fixate on. Despite her bubbly TV personality, Deschanel seemed unwilling to
fill the role of front-woman, shrinking from the (literal) spotlight while the
songs she had penned exploded joyously around her. She sang beautifully and
acted as the de facto leader, engaging the audience with the typical banter,
but didn’t seem to have much fun doing it. She could have used more support
from M. Ward (aka “Him”), who, content to hang back and let Deschanel take the
lead, nonetheless quietly stole the show with a voice that seemed to emanate
from a faded past, as if a Steinbeck novel had cracked open and started to
sing.

The duo was joined by a full band that rotated between bass,
guitar, accordion, pedal steel and piano, as well as backup vocals from the
Chapin sisters, who opened the show with a set of beautiful country ballads. She
& Him began with the bright girl-pop number “I Was Made For You” from Volume One before playing a few from the
new third installment, including single “Never Wanted Your Love” and the
stretched out disco-pop of “Together.” The lights dimmed and Deschanel switched
to piano for a couple smoky, intimate waltzes, “Take It Back” and “Hold Me,
Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” Then the band left the stage, leaving Ward and Deschanel
to serenade with a cover of Smoky Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” and
the jazz standard “Stars Fell On Alabama,” stunning against a backdrop of a
starry sky. These quieter numbers really showed off Deschanel’s voice, which,
like Ward’s, has the built-in graininess of an old record.  Later, the group’s stage debut of
“Something’s Haunting You” from Volume 3 went
off without a hitch, and they even dipped into some M. Ward solo material, playing
the bobbing rocker “Magic Trick” from his album Post-War. After closing with a sing-along version to “In The Sun,”
the band returned with an encore of “Sweet Darlin,’” for which Deschanel and
Ward shared a duet on the piano bench.

RELATED  This Week in Live Music: September 11-18

Overall, it was a set of pleasant, well-executed pop music,
and the audience loved it. After spending last night amid the crowds and rain
and alcohol of Summerfest, She & Him was, personally, a nice retreat ­– the
rare chance to sit back and just look and listen. If you were able to forget
whatever expectations you had for the persona of Deschanel and just enjoy her
music, it was wonderful. And that’s exactly how She & Him wanted it to be.

Comments

comments