On its first of two consecutive shows at New York's Bowery Ballroom on Monday (Mar. 29), She & Him appeared unassuming as ever. Even amidst cries of praise from East Village hipsters, middle-aged men and a single fan donning a Rancid T-shirt, Zooey Deschanel didn't bat a doe eye.
No real surprise there. After all, she and M. Ward (the duo's "Him") aren't strangers to this kind of attention. Deschanel is a successful actress who has charmed her way into nerdy twenty-somethings' hearts in films like "Elf," "Almost Famous," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and most recently, "(500) Days of Summer." Ward is an accomplished musician and producer on the indie folk circuit. After meeting on the set of 2007's "The Go-Getter" (she starred; he provided most of the soundtrack), the pair began swapping musical ideas and now have two albums to show for it.
Monday night's set drew heavily from "Volume Two," She & Him's latest release and its most successful -- it debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 in late March. Backed by a five-piece band, Deschanel and Ward opened with two selections from "Volume Two," "Ridin' in My Car" (a NRBQ cover) and "Thieves." Live, the songs seemed rushed, particularly the wistful "Thieves." "Volume One" tracks "I Was Made for You" and "Change Is Hard" were more familiar to both fans and the group itself; while Ward radiated confidence throughout the set, the full band shined on mostly older material.
It was "Lingering Still" that allowed Deschanel her best performance. The petite singer seemed completely at ease during the "Volume Two" cut, delivering her warmest and most assured vocals of the night. Performances like this, and a cover of the Miracles' "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (which She & Him played without its backing band), not only captivated an already-smitten audience but found Deschanel emitting a depth that doesn't necessarily come across on She & Him's recordings.
On occasion, the band engaged in brief but lighthearted banter with the sold-out crowd. "Matt broke his shoe earlier," Deschanel explained on behalf of Ward, "So if anyone in the audience knows a cobbler"... When a fan shouted out claiming to be one, the duo laughed and Deschanel quipped, "Nice try, buddy. What's your name, Mr. Cobbler?" "Peach," the audience member answered.
Such playfulness bubbled over during the encore. Joined again by its band, She & Him seemed to have the most fun during fan favorites "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" and "Sweet Darlin'." Deschanel hopped around with her tambourine, while Ward "shredded" on his guitar like a folk-pop savior. With such sugary charm, it's no wonder that She & Him are considered indie's little darlings.
Here is She & Him's setlist:
"Ridin' in My Car" (NRBQ cover)
"I Was Made for You"
"Me and You"
"Over It Over Again"
"Change Is Hard"
"I Thought I Saw Your Face Today"
"Brand New Shoes"
"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (The Miracles cover)
"Take It Back"
"Gonna Get Along Without You Now" (Skeeter Davis cover)
"Don't Look Back"
"This Is Not a Test"
"In the Sun"
"Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"