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She & Him, Vista, 4/28

She & Him

The Vista Theatre, 4/28/08

By Jonah Flicker

At 7pm, there was already a long line winding around the corner outside the Vista Theatre in Los Feliz, eager fans waiting to see She & Him perform. It soon became clear that there was some sort of delay, as 7:30 came and went and the doors remained closed. The only sensible course of action seemed to be cocktails, a surefire, age-old method of passing the time. Margaritas at the newly renovated El Chavo turned into fruity, neon-colored concoctions at Good Luck Bar, (The Tiki Ti was sadly closed). By 8:30, it seemed wise to leave the bar and secure a seat in the theater, but I’ll be damned if the line wasn’t even longer. Fortunately, the powers-that-be decided to open the floodgates shortly thereafter, and the crowd slowly trickled inside.

I had my doubts, but a concert at the Vista turns out to be a pretty good idea. The comfortable-for-a-movie-theater seating was filled with an extremely polite crowd and the smell of popcorn happens to be a very pleasant odor to enjoy music too. Lavender Diamond opened the show. Their beatific chamber-folk was surprisingly good, but I’m just not feeling singer Becky Starks’ little girl act. Her voice rings out true and clear when she sings, but, during her stage banter, her cutesy quirk felt put on and unnecessary.

(No photography allowed, so here's a clip of She & Him at SXSW a few weeks ago.)

She & Him, the collaboration between singer-songwriter M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel, is a musical perfect storm that creates some awfully beautiful sunsets. Their live performance, backed by a tight band that seemed to be having as much fun as they were, injected the songs from their debut, Volume One (Merge), with energy and intimacy. The combination of country, ‘60s girl group, and ‘70s AM gold that comprises the tracklist of the record was arranged in exciting and original ways.

Deschanel has proved herself to be an amazing singer, effortlessly using her charmingly imperfect voice to reach notes that never feel strained. For a pretty famous actress, she seemed almost nervous onstage, sometimes forgetting the tambourine she clutched in her hands. But this uncertainty was more the sign of someone new to this element of show business than a lack of confidence in her work.

Deschanel occasionally sat down at the piano, an instrument that she happens to play very well, while Ward switched between electric and acoustic guitar. The best moments of the night were the few songs Zooey and Matt played together when the band left the stage, just two like-minded, unassuming songwriters making quietly, beautifully sentimental music. Tonight’s (Tuesday's) show is sold out, but if you are able to secure a ticket via Craigslist () or are lucky enough to get on the guest list, you are in store for a night of extremely satisfying live music.

-Jonah Flicker