tue 04/08/2020

First Aid Kit, Bush Hall | reviews, news & interviews

First Aid Kit, Bush Hall

First Aid Kit, Bush Hall

Swedish folk prodigies still have their charm and their harmonies

As it turned out, the only major change since then was that they seemed to have grown exceptionally tall. Their enchanting combination of intensity and enthusiasm was immaculately intact. “Have you been on TV at all?” I asked. “Not much, but we’re going to be,” beamed older sister Johanna, now 21. “We’ve got a new album coming out. Have you heard it?” And then, with visions of minor stardom in her eyes, she sent a message to tell her dad, who seems to be both manager and sound technician, to wait another five minutes for sound check. They might be going places but right now theirs is still a wonderfully naïve, homespun enterprise.

Klara’s voice was still as pure as a Swedish snowstorm, but now there were hints of soul, too

Still, since the beginning of 2010 First Aid Kit have gained acres of experience: five tours of America, supporting Lykke Li, recording a new album (The Lion's Roar, out next month) in Nebraska, and filming a video from the motel room next to where Gram Parsons died. They may still look and dress like they’re from a fairy tale but the fact that they only at the last minute changed their minds not to actually stay in the very room where the hell-raising country singer passed away says a lot.

Now there’s an added gut to their music. In a packed Bush Hall, 18-year-old Klara’s voice was still as pure as a Swedish snowstorm, but now there were hints of soul, too. The material they were previewing from The Lion’s Roar was, in the main, more country than the pastoral The Big Black and the Blue. And when it wasn’t, like the girl’s new accents, it was still more American. Johanna’s harmonies on “Blue” made it feel like Simon and Garfunkel back in the days when they perfectly captured the feeling of being young, “Emmylou” was a homage to their country heroes and “Wolf” had a wild, native feel to it.

Two years ago the centrepiece of the concerts was an unplugged, no-microphone rendition of their numinous “Ghost Town”. The same trick was pulled off last night. As the girls started you could have heard a plectrum drop. And it felt like a truly special moment, right until the moment that the tipsy girl in front of me started singing along. But it was that kind of buzzy night. A gathering of hipsters, folkies and, seemingly, lots of people connected with the music industry.

He realised that he had still failed to successfully tame his errant top e-string

And then there was the girls' new sense of musical dynamics. Or more specifically Mattias Bergqvist, the drummer. Not only did he bring a galloping rhythm to numbers like “Our Own Pretty Ways” but he also pulled off the unlikely trick of blending his stickmanship with two of the most delicate voices around in, acoustically, one of the most unforgiving venues on the circuit. And on the title track of the new album, before the encore, they all totally rocked the joint, with the sisters' chest-length hair flailing around like Catherine wheels.

The closer was a cover of Lucinda Williams’s “Sharp Cutting Wings” where they were joined by the wonderfully shambolic support Jo Rose, whose earlier performance had all the charm of a young Ron Sexsmith with a poorly tuned guitar. Moments into the number he realised that he had still failed to successfully tame his errant top e-string and contained himself to the bass notes. Still, it was a thoroughly lovely reading.

What’s next for the First Aid Kit? According to Johanna and Klara, it’s “work, work, work”. They don’t miss having the normal lives of young women because of the great opportunities they’ve been given. Still, at their ages you’d be foolish to bet against something happening to spoil the magic. If you don't want to take any chances, they are touring the UK in February.

Watch First Aid Kit perform "Ghost Town"

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