She and Him and A Packed House at Central Park Summerstage

9 Jul
Photo: Dana Yavin

Photo: Dana Yavin

A quick glance at the sold-out crowd at Central Park Summerstage during last Saturday’s scorcher might have suggested something ranging from slightly eerie to downright strange – there was a sea of smiling Zooey Deschanel’s baking in the New York City sun. Draped in diaphanous sun dresses, hair adornments, and soft makeup, a quirky army of fans sat on the faux green lawn of Summerstage and dined on Asiadogs and craft beer through Camera Obscura’s upbeat opening set. And then, as the sun started setting over the skyscrapers in the distance, the one and only new girl fluttered out on stage with her rock partner in crime, M. Ward, and sang “I Was Made for You” to the true sold out crowd of cute impersonators.

Let’s back up a second to answer the immediate question sparked by this opening passage. Zooey Deschanel sings? Most know the rising star from “500 Days of Summer,” “Elf,” or the hit Fox show “New Girl,” but she is also an accomplished Jazz singer with a penchant for keyboards, percussion, banjo and ukulele.

After meeting on the set of the 2007 movie “The Go-Getter,” Deschanel and M. Ward, an accomplished Indie/Folk/Rock singer-songwriter, formed a collaboration that has since released four studio albums, the most recent released in May of this year.

The skill of both musicians was apparent during the sweltering show at Summerstage. Why am I belaboring the heat? It was HOT. Hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, and sunny. But, despite the heat – both generated from the sun and by the close grouping of attendees – the 28-song set captured the ears of the concert goers, and the vast majority of listeners were hanging on every note played by She & Him’s talented band.

I was most stricken with two elements of the show. It is no surprise that Deschanel can attract an audience – she is an actress – so the large crowd of wild-eyed lookalikes was expected, but her proficiency with the vast instrumentation on stage was intriguing. M. Ward and she swapped instruments and bounced around the stage effervescently. The extensive set list mixed She & Him originals with classics like “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Deschanel and her backup singer duo The Chapin Sisters also performed an airy cover of “Unchained Melody.” During the encore M. Ward rocked a cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” and Deschanel and M. Ward closed the show with a sultry version of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Overall, despite the grueling heat, She & Him and Camera Obscura were pretty darn cool. I was impressed by the talent that oozed from She & Him, and considering the engagement of the audience, I think a full crowd at Summerstage agreed with that sentiment.

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