Typically, when I go to a concert everyone is sporting t-shirts and jeans. For this show, the crowd wore colorful summer dresses and loud Hawaiian shirts. Fans were emulating Zooey Deschanel the front-person for She & Him who typically wears dresses. Others wore Hawaiian shirts presumingly because the band’s new album Melt Away is a tribute to Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys). When I took my seat, a couple jokingly asked why I didn’t get the memo about the unofficial dress code.
Appearing in a stunning pink and gold colored dress, Deschanel informed the crowd that this was the first time She & Him have ever performed in Denver. It was the initial stop of their tour supporting their seventh album. The band proceeded to recreate numerous Brian Wilson legendary songs.
If you only know Zooey Deschanel from her movies (Elf and 500 Days of Summer) or her television show (New Girl), you might be surprised to learn she is an accomplished singer-songwriter. Deschanel grew up in Los Angeles, California with her cinematographer/director father and actress mother. She started her career pursuing music, but quickly found herself acting. She connected with M. Ward on the 2007 film Go-Getter where they were tasked to record a duet over the end credits.
M. Ward (Matthew Ward) was raised in Glendale, California. He stole his brother’s guitar and taught himself how to play. Ward has an extremely prolific solo career and is also a member of Monsters of Folk with Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes). Ward has also performed with indie luminaries such as Cat Power, Jenny Lewis, and Neko Case.
After playing several Brian Wilson songs including Wouldn’t It Be Nice and Don’t Worry Baby, Deschanel asked if the audience would like to hear a few She & Him songs. When the music started, the crowd started swaying to Zooey Deschanel’s original tunes. The heartbreaking Change Is Hard was the one of the highlights enhanced by the background singers impressive harmonies.
Deschanel enquired if the audience wanted to hear a song from Matt. That’s when M. Ward stepped away from his arsenal of guitars to sing Magic Trick (from one of his numerous solo albums). Deschanel’s background vocals and the bands joyous playing had everyone rocking in their seats. Several dress wearing audience members shouted out, “We love you Matt.”
A Smokey Robinson cover featured the beautiful contrast of the voices of Deschanel and Ward. She & Him sent haunting echoes of the line You Really Got a Hold on Me throughout the historic theater. The band went back to another Brian Wilson classic Do It Again featuring M.Ward on vocals. Their encore featured Sweet Darlin’, a song Deschanel wrote with fellow artist Jason Schartzman (another actor who is an accomplished musician).
Sadly, the opening band JEMS wasn’t named after the animated series Jem (the 1980’s cartoon series about the musical adventure of Jem and the Holograms). Instead JEMS is an acronym for Jessica Rotter (who has been singing with Deschanel and Ward for several years), Emily Colombier, and Sarah Margaret Huff. Wearing matching floral outfits, the trio impressed the crowd with their uniquely blended harmonies. The band told the crowd that they have been watching She & Him rehearse and it’s going to be a big party. Later Jessica Rotter joined She & Him as one of their background singers.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one in a Hawaiian shirt explaining the musical genius of Jem and the Holograms.