First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit at the Troubadour, West Hollywood, November 8th, 2011

Nov 09, 2011 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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It's been a dream 13 months for Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit: In October of 2010, the folk/country duo stopped by Third Man Studio in Nashville to record a single produced by Jack White; last February, in their native Stockholm, the sisters opened a show for their heroes and biggest influence, Bright Eyes, sharing the stage with Conor Oberst and co. on "Lua"; in the spring, further connecting with their musical touchstone, they recorded their sophomore album in Omaha with Mike Mogis; in August, the duo brought Patti Smith to tears with a performance of "Dancing Barefoot" at the Polar Music Prize Award Ceremony; that was followed by a fall support tour with Bright Eyes in the U.S.; and, most recently, the Söderbergs have been opening for country mate Lykke Li in Europe and in the States. The tour brought them to Pomona on Monday night, where they joined Lykke Li onstage for "Silent My Song," from her Wounded Rhymes album. And, last night, two months before the release of its second LP, The Lion's Roar, First Aid Kit played its first sold-out headlining show in Los Angeles, at the famed Troubadour.

The Troubadour set opened quietly with "New Year's Eve," the penultimate track on The Lion's Roar. Klara, accompanied only by Johanna on autoharp, delivered a stirring vocal that, in one section, offers a string of New Year's resolutions, such as "Gotta stop looking at things like they're black and white." Upon conclusion, Klara grabbed her guitar, Johanna switched to keyboard, and they were joined by drummer Mattias Bergqvist for the upbeat folk number, "You're Not Coming Home Tonight," from First Aid Kit's 2008 EP, Drunken Trees. The 14-song set comprised a healthy mix of old and new: three songs from the EP, four from the debut album, The Big Black and the Blue, five from The Lion's Roar, plus two other new songs (encore song "Marianne's Son" is a B-side).

"It's been a while since we've been able to play our own shows, so it's great to get to do that again," Klara said. The performance was highlighted by the sisters' magnetic vocal harmonies and jovial spirit. For now, "Ghost Town," the duo's strongest song melodically, remains its showstopper. As they have in the past, Johanna and Klara stepped away from their mics to sing the song, standing at the very edge of the stage to face the crowd. The rendition held the room silent, an impressive feat at a club with a bar.

With The Lion's Roar, First Aid Kit continues to gravitate toward somber and wistful. At times, the duo relied on older songs to pick up the pace, but there are also new exceptions. "Blue" had a spry, pop feel, with Klara playing higher frets. The minor-key "Wolf," a non-album song, has a slight Latin vibe. And lead single, "The Lion's Roar," which the sisters have been playing live for well over a year-and-a-half, had them headbanging, their long hair completely covering their faces a la Cousin Itt.

Missing from the set was a splendid trio of songs at the center of The Lion's Roar—"This Old Routine," "To a Poet," "I Found a Way"that showcases the sisters' growth as writers. Klara is only 18 years old, and Johanna 21, but "This Old Routine" possesses observational details reminiscent of Springsteen's Tunnel of Love.

Klara shared with the crowd that First Aid Kit had shot a video for "Emmylou," in Joshua Tree days earlier, on Gram Parsons' birthday. She joked about how unexpectedly cold it was in the desert: "You'd think that's gonna be all hot and nice. That's what you think, when you're a Swede." Funny enough, the song has the line, "Stockholm's cold/But I've been told/That I was born to endure this kind of weather." On The Lion's Roar, the breezy "Emmylou" is colored by pedal (or lap?) steel, with the most ostentatious of its characteristics being the nods to Emmylou Harris, June Carter, Johnny Cash, and Parsons. For young artists that so clearly wear their influences on their sleeves, it's encouraging to see, despite the sisters' recent brushes with music elite, how their music hasn't suffered from the kind of bloating that comes from commercial concessions or desperation to be seen as important. Seemingly, First Aid Kit is doing what's coming naturally, and it's working out just fine.

First Aid Kit continues its support tour with Lykke Li tonight in Oakland, with a headlining stop at New York's Mercury Lounge on November 16.

Setlist:  

New Year's Eve

You're Not Coming Home Tonight

Hard Believer

Blue

Tangerine

In the Heart of Men

Ghost Town

Our Own Pretty Ways

Wolf

Heavy Storm

Emmylou

The Lion's Roar

Marianne's Son

I Met Up With the King

(www.thisisfirstaidkit.com)




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