Thursday, May 1, 2008

she & him @ the vista theater

Zoey put it best when, halfway though the set she joyfully yelped "Los Angeles rocks!" Yes we have bad traffic, bad air, and a bad rep. But when a supergroup plays your city on a three-stop tour - well it's one of those rare moments when you feel justified in your civic smugness.

Live, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, together the linguistic twisting She & Him, manage to portray the essence of a crush in its simplest, most innocent form. Sweet and floaty, their music embodies every butterfly, every sugar-spun sun-dappled daydream. It’s not overly clever or complex, but then again, let's face it, neither is your heart.

While She & Him is billed as a band, the night was clearly the Zooey show. M. Ward stood, mingled with the backing band just out of spotlight reach, expression a mix of pride at his protégée’s accomplishments and knowledge of his own inherent coolness. It's true of course - his inherit coolness - a fact I easily recognized despite being a relative Ward-newbie. Even as a defacto member of the backing band, his very presence elicited a chorus of female squeals every time he stepped forward to add a gravely backing vocal. After a B.B. King-inspired guitar solo, I temporarily cast aside my indignant stance on the lack of equal performance footing and lent my verbal approval to the throng. This adoration only grew though the night when he leant his rough vocals to the ever wonderful "You Really Got a Hold On Me" and "Magic Trick." M. and Zooey duets are both both salty and sweet. I'm both hormonal and running out of musical metaphors.

As much as I hate to admit it, I might have to lend my voice to the tiny Volume One dissidence. While I can understand and appreciate the Spectoresque vocal layering, hearing the same straight forward torch songs stripped of the multiple "oohs" and "ahhs" was a completely new experience. Who's for a stripped down, Vol. 2 live album? Start your letter writing campaigns now.

Part of the night’s easy charm came from Zooey’s stage presence – an untrained giggle-fest scampering between the piano and her tambourine-marked spot on the stage, equal parts terrified and exhilarated. Yes, in light of her day job, one has to wonder if it’s a bit put on...but the one imagines it would be hard to fake the kind of undignified charm that leads a girl to leap into the air and squeal "this is so much fun!" at the end of one particularly swinging song.

Another part of the fun? Watching a well connected performer bring her friends along for the ride. Even when the friend in question - Jason Schwartzman - was one I'd predicted while still standing in line, the surprise of would-be and actual hipsters alike was palpable1. I'll stop here as I'm unable to use my grown-up words when discussing Max Fi--er, Jason Schwartzman.

The night ended with the show-stopping duet "I Put a spell On You," unequivocally putting to rest any question on the stand alone value of Zooey’s voice. While proving that she can tackle the big songs, there was no denying it; her voice is far too sweet for sultry "dark songs." Coupled with the ominous hiss of M.’s feedback, it sounded even sweeter. However that’s the funny thing about crushes, musical and otherwise. Somehow, like the gooey sweet fantasies they had spent the night creating, the little imperfections simply ceased to matter.

Note from m.a.b.: I would like to point out that there was, in fact, an opener, in the form of Lavender Diamond. Who are awesome. Their set can be summed up with this, the first line from "Garden Rose", the first some they performed, with soft acoustic guitar, tinkling piano, and stoic drums backing a clear, high voice: I'll never stop a bullet / But a bullet might stop me / I'll never drink the ocean / But the ocean might drink me. Also, from lead songstress Becky Stark, "Let's hear it for planet Earth! It's the best planet in the!"

1.Me getting a prediction right is on par with Homer Simpson saving the day...deeply unsettling.

(Photo She & Him: Autumn de Wilde)

mp3: "Chance Is Hard (live)" by She & Him
mp3: "When I Get To The Border" by She & Him
mp3: "I'm Going Higher (demo)" by M. Ward
mp3: "You Broke My Heart" by Lavender Diamond


Suesjoy said...

Ooh I love Zoey Deschanel!
I'll have to give them a listen.
Awesome review woman!

Yes a spa is definitely in order! Too bad they are a trifle expensive in LA...and a year is TOO long to wait - but when you come here we will pamper ourselves in paradise!

Can't wait to see you and the Divine Ms. M. WAIT 'til she sees ME! hee hee. Surprise!!


Suesjoy said...

"Sweet and floaty, their music embodies every butterfly, every sugar-spun sun-dappled daydream. It’s not overly clever or complex, but then again, let's face it, neither is your heart."

My GOODNESS. Shakespeare is saying, "oh yeah! Rock ON!!"

Just brilliant. Lovely.

spencer harris said...

i wish i could have gone!
their album rocketed to the top of my daydream/nostalgia-inducement playlist the first time i heard it and has stayed firmly planted there since. it is going to take metric butt-load of sweet sadness to dislodge it.