She & Him brought their Melt Away Tour–A Tribute to Brian Wilson–to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre on June 14, 2022. She & Him is an indie-pop duo featuring TV’s New Girl Zooey Deschanel (She) and singer-songwriter M.Ward (Him). The tour is in support of their soon-to-be released album Melt Away–A Tribute to Brian Wilson, a 14-track jazzy rework of music from Wilson’s vast catalog.
The evening was a cool tribute to Brian Wilson in so many ways. Let’s start with the opening act JEMS (spelled with all caps). A Southern California based female folk trio, they were gems indeed! Their ethereal, three-part harmonies filled the bucolic setting of Red Butte Garden with a distinct Wilson Phillips vibe, and fit perfectly with the evening’s theme. Wilson Phillips was the meteoric, yet short-lived ‘90s vocal group fronted by Carnie and Wendy Wilson, the daughters of Brian Wilson. JEMS’ folk-harmony style has that Laurel Canyon sound reminiscent of The Mamas & the Papas and Crosby, Stills and Nash while retaining a unique authenticity.
JEMS knocked out 10 great numbers and left me wanting more. To the crowd’s delight, Deschanel joined them on stage for their third song, a cover of the mid-’60s Barbara Lewis early R&B classic “Baby I’m Yours.” The song was well suited to Deschanel’s vocal style and the JEMS three-part harmonies gave it a spirited, soulful depth.
Once the sun set and the temperatures dropped, She & Him came on with a full band and warmed up the crowd with their tribute to Brian Wilson. They did a nice job re-styling “Don’t Worry Baby” and offered a fun and breezy rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” She & Him didn’t cook up cover versions of Beach Boys classics. They gave the songs new life, performing those that fit well with She & Him’s jazz cabaret style. “Melt Away,” “Darlin’” and “Till I Die” paid homage to the depth of Brian Wilson’s catalog of often overlooked great songs.
Deschanel wore a vintage blue and silver gown that suited her retro sound. Someone in the audience offered her a silver coat, but she assured the crowd that despite being a Southern California girl she could tough out the chilly mountain air. The backup singers however, abandoned their evening fashion choice for warm coats.
The show wasn’t exclusively a tribute to Brian Wilson. She & Him also thrilled the crowd with several songs from their impressive repertoire (seven full-length albums since 2008). Deschanel’s penned songs “In the Sun” and “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” were particular highlights. To finish the night in style they did their rendition of “You Really Got a Hold On Me” and Wilson’s “Do It Again.”
Deschanel is best known for her work as an actor in movies and television, but her work as a singer, songwriter and musician should not be overlooked. Ward provides the moorings and Deschanel’s voice carries the day. She & Him’s unique jazz cabaret style fits nicely with the eclectic 2022 Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series lineup. As always, the sound crew nailed it, and discovering JEMS was an added treasure.
- Who: She & Him
- What: Indie-pop duo covering classics and original compositions
- Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
- When: June 14, 2022