She & Him - Comerica Theatre - 6/18/2013
She & Him (View the full slideshow.)
All photos by Melissa Fossum
June 18, 2013
Hear about She & Him at blog or magazine distance and your impression of them is dominated by the simple presence of Zooey Deschanel's name. Get a little closer, within range of one of their albums, and your impression of them is dominated by their sound -- thick and vintage and further away from twee pop than you probably expected, sounding like nothing so much as Roy Orbison circa Jeff Lynne and the Traveling Wilburys.
Closer still -- at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday -- neither impression holds true. Live, She & Him are neither an actress' side project nor an uncanny imitation of retro torch-pop. They're just an exceptionally tight band playing great songs.
Things do get a little more twee -- a little more like you expected, maybe -- in person. The backing band looks just this side of in-costume, and to one side sways a matched set of ragdoll-dressed backing singers (The Chapin Sisters, well-regarded in their own right) with defiantly arhythmic synchronized dance moves.
But they can sing as well as they can't dance, and the band clearly comes by their band costumes honestly. If they're daring you to think of them as a novelty act, a parody of the kind of band Zooey Deschanel would be in, it's a non-issue, because once you hear them you won't take them up on it.
Despite all the moving parts, the live setting gave these songs a new sharpness. Things were as precise as they are on record -- you come with an accordion, you best not miss -- but standing in for the albums' hermetic ELO tightness was a surprising briskness. No song -- no surprisingly tricky guitar riff, no vocal affect, no instrumental cameo -- overstayed its welcome.