She & Him...

Even with all the budget cuts that the current recession has forced upon the City of Chicago, the summer has still brought about a plethora of free events and programs to benefit both tourists and cash-strapped locals alike. One of these offerings is the free concert series at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, the famous stainless-steel bandshell designed by noted architect, Frank Gehry. The series draws from a wide-range of musical styles, focusing largely on symphonic music, but also including opera, world music, and a solitary "indie" music act each year. It is the last of these that I try to attend on an annual basis. In 2007, it was the Decemberists, of whom I had exactly one album on my iPod before attending the concert and becoming a bigger fan. In 2008, it was my favorite musician, Andrew Bird, and it became the first time I had the opportunity to see him live. Last year, I missed the indie-themed concert, but attended a performance by the stars of the Lyric Opera with Lauren. To keep up my annual rate of attendance, I headed out this evening to catch a show by She & Him, the indie-folk collaboration between hipster darling Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.

Prior to this evening, I had never once listened to She & Him. My exposure to Ms. Deschanel was limited to my enjoyment of 500 Days of Summer, but I was looking forward to giving her musical production a chance. I quickly ascertained, however, that Zooey might be better off sticking to her day job. Her voice was thin, and limited in range. She & Him's songs were light-hearted and generally appropriate for a gentle summer evening, but nothing about them particularly stood out. Basically, they provided an innocuous soundtrack to the card game going down between Lauren, myself, and Lauren's friends. It was a pleasant enough way to pass an evening outdoors, but She & Him failed to win me as a fan.

Actually, the only songs they performed that I can even remember were their covers of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "I Put a Spell on You." The former was memorable largely for the crowd's reaction -- it seemed to be a fan favorite, and it got people on their feet and dancing. The latter stood out as Deschanel's best vocal performance of the night, which was particularly sad, considering the song was their encore. Much as I might adore her sense of personal style, I just couldn't get into her performance. If I were going to support her as an artist, I'd run out and buy a copy of 500 Days of Summer before I ever drop a cent on a She & Him album. I was glad I went to the concert for the ability to say I went to a concert at Millennium Park this year, but I predict that a couple years from now, I'll scarcely be able to remember who it was I saw in 2010.

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