She & Him, Koko, London

Clap-happy Zooey's in a dream duo
  • @gillian_orr

The notoriously tricky and ill-advised journey from acting to music has, it seems, spared a victim. Zooey Deschanel, who starred in films such as Almost Famous and (500) Days of Summer, along with the cult folk hero, M. Ward, have together created a genuinely charming musical project in She & Him, here playing their first London gig and promoting their new album, Volume Two, the follow-up to their first release, you guessed it, Volume One.

From the moment Deschanel and Ward come bouncing on stage with a backing band, it's clear that this is going to be an altogether more upbeat affair than their record would suggest.

It begins as a glorious, happy-clappy, Sixties-inspired set. Deschanel bops around with her tambourine, her vocals surprisingly powerful and rich on tracks such as "Thieves" and "I Was Made for You". There are two long-haired beauties on hand to shake maracas and provide the female harmonies that give the band its retro girl-group sound. The psychedelic swirly backdrop along with the lighting that drenches everyone in a warm, yellow glow creates a feeling that you're in another place and time. Ward seems to be the rock, guiding each song with his astonishing guitar playing, mainly lurking in the shadows, happy for Deschanel to be the focus.

When the rest of the band leave mid-set, we are treated to three very special duets including "Brand New Shoes" and Fitzgerald and Armstrong's "Would You Like to Take a Walk?" Perhaps most moving of all is their cover of "You Really Got a Hold on Me", which is stripped down to just a few guitar strums and M. Ward's echoed vocal. For one moment, everyone in the crowd is collectively spellbound. When the backing band returns, it becomes a poppier set, churning out songs from both their albums such as "In the Sun" and "This Is Not a Test" as well as a cover of one of M. Ward's solo tracks, "Magic Trick". The crowd is filled with men who seem to worship M. Ward (apart from his solo work he has collaborated with Bright Eyes and is in Monsters of Folk) and identikit Zooey fangirls in vintage dresses topped with blunt fringes who scream out "I love you, Zooey!" at every opportunity.

Despite her Patsy Cline-esque vocals, Deschanel can be an awkward frontwoman, visibly embarrassed by these declarations of love as she mumbles something in between songs about Koko's giant disco ball and loving being in London. She often looks over to Ward for support, who skilfully takes over and fills the uncomfortable silence.

It's a long set: they perform 25 numbers and reappear twice for encores. After covering Ricky Nelson's "Fools Rush In" and Chuck Berry's "Roll over Beethoven", which whips everyone into a frenzy, they finish with a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You". It's a delicious end to an evening that happily goes from being bouncy and light to dark and moody. There's so much talent on display, it's no wonder the pair inspire such a dedicated and vocal following.