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..."

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas