She & Him
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- Koko, Camden Town »
Those stepping inside Camden’s KOKO to listen to some gentle folk music could easily be mistaken for thinking they had travelled into a parallel universe, one where Zooey Deschanel is queen of the world and her every move is cheered and fawned over.
Skipping on stage she is greeted by a massive round of applause by the crowd, all of whom are seemingly lined up to pay her compliments. 'It’s official. I’m in love with Zooey' shouts one man whilst another girl screams 'We love you Zooey' from the venues balcony between every single song. She responds coyly, mumbling into her microphone and quickly moving on to the next song every time. If being pretty and starring in indie films get you this reception, presumably Michael Cera can’t even leave the house.
Playing their first ever UK show Zooey and her ‘Him’, M. Ward, might have the crowd on their side from the off but they manage to keep them there with their vintage blend of folksy ballads and rousing upbeat numbers. Leaning heavily on there most recent album, this year's Volume 2, the duo are joined on stage by a backing band, adding a depth to the more brittle moments of their recorded work. As a result ‘Me and You’ excels whilst ‘Thieves’ and ‘Over and Over Again’ sound like long lost hits from an FM radio station playlist found whilst scrolling the dial on an Fifties American road trip.
That said, things do slip into dinner party territory on occasion with the intimate and heartfelt turning into their more placid cousins; pleasant and inoffensive. Playing for a patience testing hour and a half seems slightly unnecessary when much of your material is perhaps better suited to being in the background of an activity as opposed to the sole focus. Not that the audience seem to mind, every time Deschanel picks up a guitar, skips or jumps the crowd goes wild. Lord knows what would have happened if she’d had a costume change.
The tempo is picked up slightly in the shows closing section with a sugar coated version of 'In The Sun' seeing M. Ward get a chance to shine. After a sing-along ‘Why Don’t You Let Me Stay’ Ward steps out of the shadows again, leading the crowd through a solo rendition of ‘Johnny Be Good’, it’s probably the closest She & Him will ever come to starting a mosh pit.
What could be dismissed as a pretty but overly polite show is torn apart however by the closing song. Performing purely as a duo for the first time, Ward and Deschanel finish up with a stripped to the bone version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s ‘I Put A Spell On You’. Showing a rawer edge to Zooey’s vocals, the cover points towards a possible new direction to be considered in the future, removing the pastel shades really suiting the pair.
Possibly too nice to ever be truly special, She & Him still remain a hermetically sealed world away from trouble and strife. Their lives shows might be saccharine sweet to some but if you’re looking for some sunshine to brighten your life then you won’t find any brighter than an evening with Zooey and Mr Ward.