She & Him @ 9:30 Club

She & Him live at 9:30 Club

[Ed. Note: Tom is the newest contributor to Knox Road. He’ll be posting concert reviews and the like. He’s usually pretty cool.]

To the typical outsider, actress Zooey Deschanel (“She”) is the main draw of the indie folk duo She & Him. At Wednesday night’s sold out concert at the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., however, singer-songwriter M. Ward (“Him”), no stranger to the venue, was just as much the celebrity. Ward’s tracks “Magic Trick” and “Rave On” (originally by Sonny West) drew some of the loudest cheers of the night and fans shouted his name for every solo and singing part (“Ridin’ In My Car,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me”). Matt Ward’s cool rock star demeanor contrasted with Zooey’s charming but inconsistent display of excitement (i.e. jumping up and down and beating on a tambourine for “I Was Made For You”), anxiety (deer-in-the-headlights glares at times), introspection, and admiration for her fans, bandmates, and backup singers, the Chapin Sisters.

The group stuttered on a few occasions early with Ward botching a couple of notes and Deschanel almost shrieky and hoarse on “Change Is Hard” and “Thieves,” but they quickly settled in with a gorgeous “Me and You” as everyone chipped in on vocals and eventually had the crowd clapping and dancing to a debut cover of the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Single “In the Sun” was the big crowd pleaser of the night, and “Sweet Darlin'” served as a fitting, energetic closer. The duo plowed through most of both Volume One and Volume Two in its 80+ minute set, the only arguable omission being “Home,” a standout track on Volume Two. Deschanel’s vocals were exceptional at times, and all aspects of her performance were much improved from the band’s 2008 set at the Virgin Mobile Fest in Baltimore; however, the frontwoman seemed most comfortable when Ward joined her on vocals for “Ridin’ In My Car” and the Chapin Sisters (also the opening band) complemented. As a solo artist, Deschanel may still be on her way to consistently displaying the swagger to command an audience, but She & Him (emphasis on the &) have become a formidable force in indie rock.

[Photo courtesy of Kyle Gustafson, Washington Post]

Setlist after the jump.

Change Is Hard
I Thought I Saw Your Face Today
I Was Made For You
Black Hole
Lingering Still
Me and You
Take It Back
Ridin’ in My Car
Over It Over Again
You Really Got a Hold on Me
Brand New Shoes
You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Sentimental Heart
Magic Trick
Gonna Get Along Without You
In the Sun
Don’t Look Back
This Is Not a Test
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?

Fools Rush In
Rave On
Sweet Darlin’

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