She & Him brings holiday cheer to Oakland’s Fox Theater

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On Dec. 12, the Fox Theater was perfectly decked out for the holiday season. With LED string lights lining the stage, Christmas trees circling the main platform and a screen showcasing a glowing fireplace interspersed with classic Christmas movie scenes, the setting created the perfect atmosphere for enjoying a handful of winter classics with friends and family.

And with the surprisingly versatile, comforting voice of She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel, the atmosphere was brought to life for eager audiences in the venue.

A musical duo consisting of Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward, She & Him has been releasing original indie music, Christmas albums and covers of 20th-century classics since 2008. Deschanel, who is better known to audiences for her starring roles in films such as “Elf” and “(500) Days of Summer,” as well as her seven-year stint on the Fox sitcom “New Girl,” brought plenty of charisma and personality to her musical performance Thursday night. Even in her on-screen performances, she’s had moments that showcased her musical abilities, and She & Him has brought these abilities to the forefront.

Really, it was Deschanel’s voice that carried the duo’s performance throughout the night. While the first half of the concert consisted primarily of well-known Christmas songs that the band had performed in its albums A Very She & Him Christmas and Christmas Party, She & Him benefited from the duo’s interaction with its instrumentalists and backing vocalists, which brought an additional layer of warmth and brightness to the tried-and-true setlist.

In between performances of classics like “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Deschanel took periodic breaks to interact with the audience more casually. Without any clear introductions for herself, she focused on highlighting M. Ward, the instrumentalists and the singers onstage, while providing short quips to stir up the energy of the Bay Area crowd.

In the middle of the show, Deschanel welcomed “special guests” onto the stage to help her moderate a costume contest with members of the audience, many of whom had dressed up in holiday-themed gear. The show’s opener, Alice Wetterlund and “Property Brothers” star Jonathan Scott — Deschanel’s romantic partner — brought a handful of audience members onstage for an “applause-driven” contest, took a selfie with them and ushered them off the stage. While the costume contest was a rather strange and gimmicky interlude in the concert, it seemed fitting given the decked-out venue and the holiday-themed nature of the show.

In the second half of the show, She & Him steered away from Christmas songs to briefly delve into some covers of classics, including the Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Despite the shift in genre, the “classics” portion of the setlist still felt in line with the rest of the Christmas songs, and further allowed the musicians onstage to create a sense of spirit and community with audience members.

By the time the band came around to the final song of the night — before a brief encore, that is — the audience had plenty of time to settle in with the comforting blend of new and old holiday tunes and pop music classics that almost everyone seemed to know the words to. The big finale, a cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” came as no surprise, but the energy and enthusiasm in the venue were still palpable. She & Him played it safe throughout the evening with a collection of songs that everyone is sure to keep playing for weeks on end in their own homes, but hearing them performed live — and brought to life especially by the charm and talent of the duo — was an experience worth sitting around the fire for. 

Contact Anagha Komaragiri at [email protected]. Tweet her at @aaanaghaaa.