Any skepticism I had about actress Zooey Deschanel's musical project She & Him went out the window when I heard their first single, "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" Clearly, this wasn't just an actor's vanity project, like Bruce Willis singing the blues as Bruno or Jennifer Love Hewitt trying to cash in on the tween pop phenomenon of the early aughts. It's safe to say that people listen to She & Him almost despite the fact that Ms. Deschanel is a famous actress. It's her voice, a combination of Ella Fitzgerald and Patsy Cline, that is the real star of the act.
It's also safe to say that Ms. Deschanel's celebrity was a contributing factor to the She & Him show at the Fox Theater in Oakland selling out. If the 2,800 people in the audience had been lured by the thrill of seeing a real live celebrity, they weren't disappointed by the music. Ms. Deschanel sounded fantastic, her voice holding up throughout the show and proving that she doesn't rely on studio tricks. She had boundless energy and enthusiasm, jumping up and down and smiling wide-eyed throughout the show.
Opening band the Chapin Sisters performed thirty minutes of folky female harmonies in hippy dresses. They sounded amazing, but it was definitely not my kind of music. I liked them better in their sixties glam as backup singers for She & Him. She & Him's band also consisted of a drummer, acoustic guitarist, and bassist. M. Ward proved that he was an equal partner in the group, performing tasteful but shredding guitar solos, and offering a nice contrast to Ms. Deschanel's vocals. My one wish was that he had more singing parts.
The band sounded rich and full, sounding great even when M. Ward and Ms. Deschanel tackled several songs with just an acoustic guitar. They brought out guitarist Al Anderson of NRBQ for their cover of that band's "Ridin' In My Car," and he joined them again for a joyful interpretation of "Roll Over Beethoven" at the encore.
Zooey's parents and husband were standing in front of me throughout the show, and I couldn't help imagine how proud they must be of her. Not only is she a successful actor, but she is also an exceptional singer. Zooey has found her perfect vehicle in She & Him, and I hope the project continues to bear fruit for M. Ward and her for years to come.