Listening to She & Him always makes me want to throw on my best polka dotted button-up and ride my ’62 Schwinn to the record store for some dusty, forgotten vinyl that still holds the smell of the donors attic.
I accomplished at least one of these three visions by sporting my blue and white polka dots to the She & Him show in Royal Oak the evening of June 6. A line of girls in Zooey-inspired dresses and guys in long-sleeved flannel wrapped around the Royal Oak Music Theatre awaiting the arrival of the duo that is She & Him.
The band consists of actress and indie sweetheart Zooey Deschanel , and singer-songwriter and guitarist M. Ward . Deschanel and Ward formed the indie folk duo in 2006, originally collaborating via e-mail from Zooey’s Los Angeles home to Ward’s studio in Portland, Oregon. Their first album, appropriately named Volume One , was released on March 18, 2008. After a short tour to promote the album in 2008, including a performance at the South by Southwest festival, She & Him went back to the studio and released Volume Two almost exactly two years later on March 23, 2010.
The She & Him 2010 tour of the United States, which includes several festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella, stretches from March through September, stopping in most major cities including our very own, Royal Oak.
A fairly short opener by Los Angeles folk band the Chapin Sisters was a pleasant and slow-going act consisting of three sisters with delicate harmonies and acoustic guitars. The band’s quiet and dark introduction quickly turned into an energetic, bluegrass-driven soiree complete with the addition of a banjo and even a collaborative vocal number with Zooey herself.
For perhaps one of the longest sets I’ve seen, She & Him hit the stage complete with members of the Chapin Sisters providing back-up vocals and instrumentation.
Of all the shows I’ve been to, I have to admit I had high expectations for this set in particular. I mean, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are two of the biggest names in indie right now. Films like “500 Days of Summer ” and “Yes Man ” portrayed Deschanel as America’s sweetheart with a quirky twist, skyrocketing her popularity in the scene. And M. Ward has made a name for himself with seven full length solo albums, several compilation tracks and appearances with the likes of Bright Eyes and one of my personal favorites, Jenny Lewis , and of course, recorded two full albums as the “him” in She & Him.
They didn’t let me down. With fun opening songs like “I Was Made For You” and “Black Hole,” they got the crowd going right away. The 60’s-inspired folk pop traversed from record to live show beautifully as they played a full 26-song set list with just about every song from Volume One and Volume Two, not to mention a few covers from artists like Ella Fitzgerald (“Would You Like To Take A Walk?) and The Miracles (“You Really Got A Hold On Me”).
Seeing She & Him live just confirmed what I already knew. A combination of Zooey’s “nice-girl” energy and soft, but playful vocals meshed with M. Ward’s unparalleled talent and knowledge of music perfectly. The crowd could not get enough of Ward when he hit the microphone for a cover of his own material, “Magic Trick.”
She & Him’s tunes are all-around fun, whether they have you jumping around to tracks like “Home” and the hit “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” or make you want to sit at a piano and sob about past loves like “Sentimental Heart” and “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today.”
Despite Deschanel’s fun-loving personality, we did see her take a slight turn for a more sarcastic and feisty Zooey when fans refused to stop taking pictures of her with the flash on. This is understandable, as it’s likely distracting her from playing, but security was everywhere scrounging the place for people with camera’s. I thought to myself several times, “This is a She & Him show. We’re not going to start moshing or rush the stage like this is Ozzfest or something, why all the security?” But apparently they were on some serious camera patrol, and Zooey wasn’t having any of it either.
The show ended on a high note with a Johnny Mercer cover (“Fools Rush In”) and the finale being a Chuck Berry cover (“Roll Over Beethoven”). They performed beyond my expectations, really, because I never expected them to play so many songs, and they really put their heart into each and every one. I was hoping Zooey would hula hoop while singing “In the Sun” like the video, but I imagine that’d be difficult. Excellent show hands down with or without the hula hoop.