First Aid Kit rose to prominence on YouTube, as so many music stars of the late 00s did. This Swedish duo, composed of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, just released their 4th full-length record Ruins after a 4-year hiatus. Ruins continues and amplifies their distinct, American folk-pop sound. Their vocals melt seamlessly together in harmonies, something that always gets me excited for a live show, knowing that it will be even better in person than on the record.
Van William, a Los Angeles-based folk-pop singer, was their perfect support act for the show. He has a similar sound to First Aid Kit with more optimistic and faster tempo songs. Unfortunately, his voice didn’t quite carry into the audience and was drowned out by the instrumental. Despite this, he did a great job in getting the crowd excited for the headliner, who he described as “two of my favorite songwriters of all time.”
First Aid Kit began the night with “Rebel Heart” from their new album. Klara takes the lead at the beginning of this song. Her voice is amazing and powerful on its own, but the magic really comes in at the chorus when Johanna adds the harmony. They continued the show with their first single off the album “It’s A Shame,” which was accompanied by a projection of one of the most famous stretches of American highway, Route 66. There is a long history of Route 66 in folk and country music, and it was great to see this contemporary duo embracing the history of the genre.
“King of the World” picked up the pace and got the crowd, many of whom hadn’t spent much time with the new record, moving and singing along. They prefaced their next song “Postcard” by saying it was the “most country song on the album,” and this was certainly true. It has a distinctive honky-tonk sound that is the epitome of 70s-80s country.
“Stay Gold” was accompanied by a projection of a stained glass-like sun. It is a song that asks the question “What if my hard work ends in despair/What if the road won’t take me there,” acknowledging that the difficult parts of life are just as much a part of being alive. The next song was the title track of their sophomore album “The Lion’s Roar.”
They totally changed the pace of the show with their 2017 single “You Are The Problem Here,” a rock song about victim blaming in sexual assault cases. It was a timely song and was perfectly in step with the #MeToo movement. Although it strays from their usual sound,” it was a powerful song that the entire crowd understood and appreciated. They returned to their folk sound with “To Live A Life,” joking that it was “on a lighter note” than the anger of “You Are The Problem Here.” Although it wasn’t a lighter note, it was a nice display of the range of emotions they express in their songs.
One of the highlights of the night was the title track “Ruins.” It’s a beautiful song, where their harmonizing voices take center stage over minimalistic acoustic guitar picking. “Wolf” continued this momentum before the show took another turn back toward rock music. They covered Heart’s “Crazy On You,” which was another one of my favorite parts of the show. This cover (along with “You Are The Problem Here”) made me wonder why First Aid Kit has continued with the whole folk-pop thing because they could be a great female rock duo.
They quickly returned to their folk sound, playing “Fireworks” from their new record, and their classic (and one of my favorite songs) “Emmylou.” They ended their set with “Nothing Has To Be True,” but luckily returned to the stage for an encore.
They began the encore with “Hem of Her Dress,” encouraging the crowd a sing along with them. It’s always amazing to hear 3,000+ voices in unison, and this did not disappoint. They then treated us to a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will,” during which Klara forgot some of the words, but recovered nicely. If the Heart cover made me think they should become a rock band, the Leonard Cohen cover returned me to my senses.
They brought Van William back to the stage to perform “Revolution” from his debut album Countries, and closed with their hit “My Silver Lining.” First Aid Kit were energetic and fun performers, and although folk music can be lost in a venue the size of MTELUS, the show felt personal. The crowd was united by the emotions of every song.
Review – Rhodes Ford
Photos – Arianne Bergeron