TVD Live: She & Him
at Wolf Trap, 7/11

When M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel of She & Him took the stage at Wolf Trap on Thursday night, the audience was treated to an evening of retro sights and sounds. The band played a mix of originals and covers, including a couple of very impressive surprises among well-known songs from Volume(s) One, Two, and Three. From the opening notes of “I Was Made For You” from Volume 1 to the encore ending with “I Put a Spell on You,” the show was full of entertaining surprises.

Like many women of my generation who have been following Deschanel’s career since Almost Famous, I feel a kinship with her and many of the characters she has played. Because of this, I felt like I was watching a close friend perform rather than a famous actress who happens to be in a band (or a famous singer who happens to be an actress, however you’d like to look at it). Because of Deschanel’s relatively recent jump into the true mainstream with New Girl, the audience was an interesting mix of fans of all ages. I even noticed a few fans who seemed to take style cues from Jessica Day (Deschanel’s character on New Girl).

I was less familiar with M. Ward before She & Him, and I was pleasantly surprised by his relaxed stage demeanor as he easily transitioned between instruments—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and piano. Even more impressive was his voice. Many of She & Him’s songs feature Deschanel more prominently, especially on the albums. However, when the songs are performed live, Ward’s vocal contributions are more obvious. “You Really Got a Hold on Me” showcased his vocal talent and made me appreciate the duo’s sound even more.

By far, the highlight of the show was when Deschanel and the duo’s backup singers sang an almost completely a capella version of “Unchained Melody.” If anyone arrived at the concert with any doubts about her singing ability, this performance hopefully convinced them all. To say that this is not an easy song to sing is an understatement, and it is also gutsy for an artist to attack such a well-known and beloved tune.

During their opening performance, Camera Obscura performed crowd-pleasers “Lloyd I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” from Let’s Get Out Of This Country and “French Navy” from My Maudlin Career. The band also played “Desire Lines,” which is the title track of the band’s newest album. Lead singer Tracyanne Campbell commented about the heat and humidity in DC, but also remarked that the band would like to play here again soon. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping they do.

At the end of She & Him’s set, Deschanel invited opening act Camera Obscura back onstage to participate in one of the band’s more upbeat songs, “In the Sun.” At this point there were nearly 20 performers on stage, and the audience also sang along. It was a heartwarming way to end the evening, and I was surprised when the band came back for an encore that included “Sunday Girl” from Volume 3, “Sweet Darlin’” from Volume 1, and a cover of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Between the band’s request that the audience put away their cell phones, Deschanel’s signature retro style, and covers of well-known songs from the 1950s, it was almost as if this concert did not take place in 2013. I will admit that I was disappointed by the cell phone request, but by the third song I understood why Ms. Deschanel and Mr. Ward took that step. It is a different concert experience when you watch through the Instagram filter on your smartphone, and this concert was a reminder that I should keep my phone in my purse more often.

Photos: Autumn De Wilde

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