There were more reasons to visit The Greek Theater last Saturday night than a mere love of ampersands. It was a rare night at The Greek where the weather was absolutely perfect- not too warm, not too cold. The early signs of the upcoming “Super Moon” were in the the sky. The crowd, a bit older than expected, and happily ironic mustache-free, arrived early enough to make sure they enjoyed every act on the bill.
This was a rare night where, although there was no reserved seating, they did put chairs out on the floor of The Greek. An effective set up for the classic country of Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell and the retro pop of She & Him, but positively inappropriate perky dance pop of Tilly & The Wall. However, Tilly are solid professionals and gave their all.
Tilly & The Wall are one of those most rhythmically fascinating acts in the business. Tap Dancer Jamie Pressnall and drummer Craig DeMayo work together in a brilliant way, and those beats caused the largely seated crowd to get out of their seats, and even prompted more than a few folks to crash the small gap between the front row and the photo pit. Throughout the course of the set, audience participation increased, and by the time they made it to their 2008 single “Beat Control,” the once sedentary crowd was entirely converted. In a mere 30 minutes, this group that was largely unknown to the bulk of the crowd made 8,000 new fans. This was largely evident by the massive crowds flocking the merch table after their set. They actually sold out of CD’s at this show! In this day and age, that’s an impressive feet.
Next up was a set by Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell. I will fully admit to not being as versed in Harris’ material as I should be. Her voice is in fantastic shape, and her and Crowell’s voices blended together beautifully. And, although Harris is the much bigger name of the two, the set was carried out as a true collaboration set. They each took equal turns on lead vocals, and the whole set sounded excellent. The back up band was featured a jazz fiddle player and several fine Nashville players. The whole of their hour long set was pretty much perfect. Almost too perfect. With nary a stray note or problematic start, the professionalism of the set made it almost feel a bit, dare I say this about a pair of legends, boring. There was nothing wrong with the set other than the fact that there was, well, nothing wrong with it. Sure, the crowd was polite. There were even a scattered few that were up and dancing. However, there definitely wasn’t the crazy response that Tilly received.
She & Him literally on to the stage on jumped straight into the perky “I Was Made For You” off of their creatively titled debut Volume 1. The band that backed Zooey Deschanel and M Ward was amazing! We had a drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, fiddle player, and back up vocals from LA’s Chapin Sisters. The second song was “Baby,” a cover of a classic Berry/Greenwich track that featured Ward’s smooth tenor in addition to Deschanel’s unique, jazz inflected vocals. They also managed to get the crowd back on their feet on contact.
The glorious thing about She & Him is that every song is timeless. The originals and the covers alike all felt like they could have been written and recorded in any decade sometime between the 50’s and now. The sound was pristine as well, which is a rarity for virtually any outdoor venue, but especially tough when dealing with a band where the vocals are the center. Deschanel was clear as a bell, sitting directly on top of the mix, with Ward’s guitar playing sitting right below her voice, and every instrument on stage was perfectly blended beneath that. Ward is easily one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen, playing a style that is equal parts Les Paul and Chuck Berry, and his energy was through the roof!
Highlights including a brilliant reading of Volume 3‘s “Turn To White,” featuring a dual ukulele attack from Deschanel (on electric Uke) and touring guitarist Chris Scruggs (yes, the grandson of Earl), plus a string quartet filling the sound out with tremolo strings. Deschanel did an excellent mouth trumpet on “This Is Not A Test.”
The whole set was brilliant. It was one of the finest musical performances I’ve seen this year, and was, in general a glorious night. They played a rock solid 90 minutes of classic pop music, and I hope to get to see them do it several times again.
Setlist: (Tilly & The Wall did harmony vocals and dancing on “In The Sun”)