She & Him, Fox Theater, Oakland, California
Miike Snow, Music Box, Henry Fonda Theater Los Angeles

On screen she can freeze your soul, but on stage her voice will melt your heart

Rules are there to be broken, and She & Him have jubilantly shattered one of pop's eternal laws – the one stating that Thou Shalt Not Form a Band If Thou Art a Hollywood Star Because It Will Inevitably Suck – to smithereens.

Zooey Deschanel is the Californian actress whose gamine looks, coupled with the fact that she's married to Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service) have made her into something of an indie heroine, who first broke out as Cameron Crowe's super-hot cabin crew sister in Almost Famous, who twinkled as Trillian in the otherwise dismal remake of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and whose biggest success to date came with the Golden Globe-nominated (500) Days of Summer.

The last, as chance would have it, is the in-flight movie on my flight to the States. Once you strip away its mildly avant-garde narrative structure, it's essentially an Anistonesque rom-com for people who own more than one Belle and Sebastian album, though it does have its charms. Zooey's character, however, isn't among them. Like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, she's fundamentally a terrible human being who chews up and spits out the protagonist's poor romantic heart, to the extent that I enter the Fox Theater, a Hammersmith-sized 1920s Art Deco wedding cake of a venue with two huge gold warrior-buddhas glowering down over the auditorium, still harbouring vaguely negative feelings towards Deschanel herself.

These evaporate rapidly when she gambols on to the Fox's stage, banging a tambourine on her vintage-dressed hip, to front She & Him, the indie-folk duo she formed in 2008 with Portland singer-songwriter M Ward.

Coming on like a latter-day Carter and Cash or Nancy and Lee, She & Him's two albums to date consist of heart-swellingly lovely and unashamedly nostalgic melodic pop, all corny Four Seasons chords and cha-cha-cha endings, and Deschanel's high, clear voice, with a Patsy Cline yodel on the odd syllable, is a revelation.

Tonight's show is a sort of homecoming, Oakland being the city where they played their first ever gig at the Great American Music Hall, and Zooey's father, the celebrated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, is present as is, seemingly, every indie girl in the Bay area, paying homage to their style icon.

Like a good taxi passenger, Matt Ward knows the back seat is his domain, and manhandles his gleaming Gibson in the half-light, although when he steps forward to take a line on their version of Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me" in his malted cinnamon voice, every female heart in the building melts a little.

She & Him do a nice line in cover versions, and in addition to the aforementioned Motown classic we're treated to Sinatra's "Fools Rush In", Simone's "I Put a Spell on You", an incongruously kick-ass, all-guns-blazing romp through Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven", and "Ridin' in My Car" by cult power-pop band NRBQ, whose Al Anderson turns up to guest on guitar.

The duo's own material more than holds its own, particular highlights being debut album opener "Sentimental Heart" (featuring Deschanel on electric piano), the lovelorn "Black Hole" ("I'm stuck here getting misty over you/Alone on a bicycle for two") and the inspirational "This Is Not a Test", which earworms its way into my brain all the way back to San Francisco.

It's enough to make you forgive Zooey for being such a cold-hearted cow on the screen.

In front of a white-on-black jackalope silhouette, two masked men march on to a smoke-filled stage, then three, then five, then six. Even if they didn't look like the Autons from Doctor Who, Miike Snow could scarcely be any more alien and any less LA-friendly, being a synth act based in Stockholm. Then again, there's always been an element on the West Coast which gravitates towards the way we do things in Old Yurp, and the suntanned Scandophiles are out in force tonight, a not-inconsiderable show of support in a venue where it's $10 a drink and you have to pay to wash your hands.

The prime movers in the mysterious Miike Snow (the strange spelling comes from controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike) are Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg aka Swedish production team Bloodshy & Avant (perhaps most notable for Britney's "Toxic"), and California-raised Andrew Wyatt.

Their epic, often overwhelming sound is simultaneously as arpeggiated as Röyksopp or Underworld and as riff-tastic as Calvin Harris. And the Angelenos aren't just here to score hipster points – there are genuine whoops for the single "Silvia" and the sweet "A Horse Is Not a Home", whose lyrics are especially apt in Smog City. ("Sometimes I swim with you in a room that is ocean sized and clear/Not here where all I breathe is smoke...")

Beneath their white plastic masks, Karlsson, Winnberg and Wyatt wear yet more "masks" (they remain part-disguised by greasepaint and Brylcreem), as though wishing to retain an element of mystique no matter how hot it gets, and never quite reveal what makes them tick. This is as cool as anything emanating from their keyboards, and I'm digging the spirit: leave 'em guessing, stay inscrutable. In my mind, I hear the ghost of Captain Mainwaring: "Don't tell them your name, Piike..."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all