Concert review: She and Him & Camera Obscura – Riverside Theater in Milwaukee and Aragon Ballroom in Chicago – June 28-29, 2013

Published by JB, June 29, 2013

  • Riverside Theater in Milwaukee
  • Aragon Ballroom in Chicago
  • June 28-29, 2013

In what will go down as THE twee indie pop tour of 2013, both Camera Obscura and She and Him put their charming thumbprint on two major midwest cities this past weekend (Camera Obscura did not play in Milwaukee, joining the tour for the first time in Chicago).   For longtime indie fans, the idea of Camera Obscura opening up for anyone at this point in their career is head-scratching.  With over 125k+ followers on their Facebook page, Camera Obscura is more than headline worthy.  That’s like My Bloody Valentine opening for Grizzly Bear (should never happen).  In this instance, the headliner (She and Him) offers the same blend of retro-AM, old-school, doowop pop that Camera Obscura has mastered for over a decade.   The impact here is a load of responsibility on Zooey Deschanel’s shoulders.   And yet, like Tracyanne Campbell, Zooey shines.  No costume changes, no sexy dancing, no prancing, no self-indulgence – nothing fake.  It was a real world delight and Deschanel was the evening’s obvious gem.

Not trying to be anything other than what she already is (she never once lifted the microphone from its stand) Deschanel solidified herself as the talented girl-next-door we’ve come to know for nearly a decade now.   Now three albums deep (four if you count Christmas albums) with M. Ward as her mentor, and over a year removed from her divorce to Death Cab For Cutie’s lead man Ben Camera_Obscura_ 2013June29-129Gibbard, Deschanel is fitting into a comfortable (if not, sometimes predictable) groove.  But on these two nights it’s the duets with Ward and non-LP covers where Deschanel and Ward shine.  Ward’s duets with Deschanel on tracks like ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’ provided their set with its near-peak moments.

It was Deschanel’s cover of ‘Unchained Melody’ with her two female backup singers that was the night’s best moment and most riveting.  The near-acapella, heavily reworked rendition brought the crowd to its highest frenzy, followed by with M. Ward’s rollicking ‘Rave On’ from his Hold Time album.  In fact, the crowd seemed desperate at times for Ward’s occasional vocal contributions during the Deschanel-dominated numbers, as his raspy charm fit like a glove all evening.  The man makes everything better and with seemingly minimal effort.  Every syllable Ward uttered into the mic was followed by screams from the crowd.

Camera Obscura’s set was compact (too much so) and simply not geared for the cavernous ballroom which hollowed out much of their normally pristine sound.  Their catalog though is nothing south of outstanding as Campbell She_and_Him_ 2013June28-58continues to drop four or five gems on each new Obscura release.  The newly released Desire Lines is no exception.  Quite simply, aside from M. Ward’s ‘Rave On’, all of the strongest material of the evening generated from Camera Obscura’s set.  Tracks like ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken’, ‘Tears for Affairs’ and the stunning finale of ‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’ were the evening’s most seminal moments.  Together both Campbell and Deschanel have striking similarities onstage.  Both fairly stoic and stationary behind the mic, allowing their music to take center stage far more than their mere stage presence.   While at times you hoped Deschanel would reach out further beyond the mic, her courage to rely on her musical talent and less on her obvious looks and charm helps establish her far beyond what any resilient naysayers may give her credit for.  Between her tour de force of talent and Campbell’s pop gems, it was a modern day knockout 1-2 punch for twee indie pop.


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