M. Ward @ The Pabst Theater
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Ward’s set at the Pabst Theater did little to shed light on Ward himself (beneath a baseball cap, it was almost impossible to even see his face), but it did put the true immediacy of his best work on vibrant display. Drawing heavily from Post-War, Ward upped the intensity of some of the album’s best tracks. Songs such as “Chinese Translation,” “Magic Trick” and “Rollercoaster” all rocked hard, with Ward allowing his backing band the chance to turn these songs into collective endeavors. And when Ward sang, “Rollercoaster, we was the best of times/ Rollercoaster, we was the worst of times too,” it became clear why Ward’s songs work so well in the early 21st century. His strongest material seems to capture the fragility of the present moment while at the same time allowing a sense of much-needed hope to break through.
Perhaps most noteworthy about Ward’s set was his superb guitar playing. Ward has noted in recent interviews that his stint as musical backup for actress Zooey Deschanel (in their She & Him project) has allowed him the opportunity to truly hone his craft as a guitarist. Ward’s performance Saturday evening revealed how far he’s come, as he displayed a creativity—and even playfulness—in his approach that allowed him to transcend the confines of the often limiting singer/songwriter label.