I Could’ve Been Your Girl
There weren’t many dads celebrating Father’s Day in the Moody Theater crowd Sunday, but there was certainly no shortage of men. More specifically, there was no shortage of men accompanying floral-sundress clad women who were, in the case of the couple in front of me, locking lips a little too frequently for anyone’s liking.
Nostalgia can bring out the romantic in anyone, and Sunday’s bill readied just that. In support of fourth album Volume 3 – there was also that Christmas album – She & Him, the duo comprised of actress-turned-chanteuse Zooey Deschanel and folk lush M. Ward, packed the room to capacity. Despite my initial reservations about Deschanel’s credentials, the cynicism receded into musical memorabilia.
Muscle Shoals, Ala., duo Secret Sisters opened the show by drenching it in sepia. The sisters kept things sparse, utilizing little more than an acoustic guitar and vocal play as its paintbrush, charming the audience as they harmonized in the vein of the Everly Brothers (even covering the Brothers’ “Lonely Island”) but executing pitch-perfect sonics like Scandinavian contemporaries and fellow sibling duo, First Aid Kit.
Taking on Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, and traditional hymn “River Jordan,” the southern girls proved themselves learned students. Big sister Laura took point on vocals, chirping a sweet, clear soprano as the two switched guitar duties. But it was Lydia who took charge for the Hunger Games soundtrack addition “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” with a demure alto that sounded like her sister kept a pack-a-day regimen.
She & Him & A Lot of Others might be a more apt moniker for this tour from the much adored duo. Deschanel and Ward entered with a full backing-band, including strings and two jumping backup singers, bringing the stage total to eight. If Secret Sisters warmed the crowd with faded front-porch snapshots, She & Him provided a better Sixties filter than Instagram.
Volume One’s “I Was Made For You” opened the set with buoyant and unabashed pop. Through the set, Deschanel hopped between passively shaking a tambourine to piano, keyboard, and ukulele picking. As for her mid-yawn timbre, it had the same affect on the four records – soothing, but a bit bland. When she shared vocal reins with Ward on Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold On Me” and “Baby,” the ladder’s smoky vox effortlessly upstaged Deschanel’s.
Regardless, Deschanel loosened her penchant for covers and served as the primary songwriter on Volume 3. She’s obviously branching out musically. But when partnered with someone who holds such veteran status as Ward, she struggles to shine in the same camp. She seemed lost in the band’s fray, but when stripped down to only the core for, Frank Perkins’ jazz standard “Stars Fell on Alabama,” she and Ward produced a stilling tenderness that showed them at their best.