On Thursday, February 7th, I attended the M.Ward concert at the historical Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. After a $3 million renovation, started in 1989, it is the most restored of the historical movie palaces in the city. Opened in 1926, it is no wonder the acoustics are so astounding at this beautiful venue.
M.Ward, who may be better known for his very successful collaboration with actress Zoey Deschanel as She & Him, also has an amazing band up his sleeves. Together, their alternative-country style and his authentic raspy voice put on an incredibly entertaining show. He plays with country guitarist, Chris Scruggs (grandson of the late Earl) along with Mike Coykendall on guitar and Scott McPherson on drums. They all fit very well within the context of the music and only serve to further his “chill dude” persona. However, despite this attitude that he gives off, this artist can definitely hold his own under the spotlight as a solo performer. Even with the wide variety of talented artists in the indie-folk-singer-songwriter scene, M. Ward shines as a talented musician, both in his soulful vocals and his intricate guitar work. M. Ward’s guitar playing in a word is “superb”.
When M.Ward finally came out on stage, the crowd went wild. Though the performances started out a little sleepy, by the end of the night, all musicians picked up the energy and it turned into a lively show. The concert was a good mix of M.Ward’s older hits as well as songs off his new album A Wasteland Companion, which was released last year in April. The show closed with a rousing rendition of the Rivieras ’60s surf classic “California Sun”. With touches of trumpet, harmonizing steel guitars, and percussion, M.Ward’s crooning vocals really showed off his potential as a front man. The show got even more exciting when Zooey Deschanel joined M. Ward onstage towards the end to sing a couple of songs with him.
One of my favorite parts about the show had to be the neat backdrop, which were house windows. Throughout the show, what appeared behind those windows changed into different settings, ranging anywhere from a Midwestern sunset to a nighttime view from a city apartment. It certainly added a different layer of meaning to each song.
It was interesting to see the very civilized crowd M. Ward attracted to the downtown Orpheum Theatre. For the most part, the patrons seemed to be young hipsters and middle-aged couples. My concert companion and I found ourselves to be the only ones bobbing our heads along to the music which was just fine with us.