Having spent a blisteringly hot afternoon touring the stages and the offerings at Forecastle Sunday, I and probably many others were happy to see some clouds roll in along with a welcome breeze when She & Him took the Main Stage at around 7:00 p.m. That was the literal relief; the arrival of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward provided the figurative breath of fresh air that I needed. After registering the zany outfits and nearly bare bodies filmed with sweat and dust for a couple of hours, Miss Z. arrived in a cool blue frock, perfectly coiffed and made up, like she had just stepped off the set of a 50s-era movie.
Imagine a bit of Patsy Cline crossed with Bobbie Gentry and Doris Day, and you get close to the style of Deschanel's crystal clear vocals on songs like “Change is Hard” and “Thieves Among Us.” The backing band was solid behind Deschanel with Ward on lead guitar and sometimes keys and vocals. Deschanel moved between the keyboard and ukulele, and occasionally jumped up and down energetically with a tambourine. Adding to the retro vibe were her prettily attired backup singers, the Chapin Sisters , who sometimes open for them with their own material.
I like the blend of Ward's and Deschanel's voices, a nice contrast of his grit and her sweetness when they sing the songs that document the stories of love gone awry, much like the frequent juxtaposition of plaintive lyrics wrapped in bright, upbeat music as in “Over It Over Again” and “In the Sun.” I would actually like to hear even more of Ward, but he seems pretty content to cede center stage to Deschanel. The final encore was their great cover of “I Put a Spell on You.” I'm a big fan of the Nina Simone version of this Screamin' Jay Hawkins classic (1956), and She & Him definitely did it justice.