Somebody must have told She & Him they were boring on stage, because they rushed through their concert at House of Blues last night, playing several songs at three times their normal tempo. Making their way through about 25 songs in less than two hours, the duo took the life out of tunes that usually breeze through the air like a warm wave of sunshine.
She — singer-songwriter and actress Zooey Deschanel — enchanted the sold-out House of Blues with her deep, rich pipes, while Him — songwriter and guitar maestro M. Ward — alternated between acoustic, electric, and slide guitar.
It sounds like a recipe for greatness, and if executed properly, it might have been. But Ward hid himself in the corner of the stage for most the night, while Deschanel took advantage of the spotlight by blandly hitting a tambourine as she stood squarely in front of the mic.
Backed by a full band, She & Him based most the set on their recently released second album, Volume Two, with a few tunes sprinkled in from 2008’s Volume One. Swaying ballads like “Thieves” and “Change Is Hard” were bland and uninspired, even with the flourish of keyboards, on-spot backup singers, and a skilled drummer, bassist, and guitarist.
In a welcome change of pace, Ward and Deschanel played a set of songs on their own. They put precious spins on Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me on I’m a Radio” and Motown oldie “You've Really Got a Hold on Me.”.
But it wasn’t until the end of the set that they actually started engaging the audience. Deschanel jumped up and down enthusiastically during “Ridin’ in My Car” and asked the audience to sing along to “In the Sun,” a fun '60s-inspired pop song with chugging guitars and a bright melody.
“She” sounded great, and “Him” drew his fair share of whoops from the crowd. Yet neither smiled much or even seemed to enjoy themselves. Their songs detail stories of falling in love and riding off into the sunset, but none of these emotions translated live. By the end of the night, we were all equally spiritless. -—Danielle Sills; photo by Aaron Mendelsohn