Stellar set from Swedish duo with a growing UK fanbase
After a decade-long career in which their four albums have incrementally gained more and more traction (although they've always been big in Scandinavia), this winter's Ruins has tipped First Aid Kit firmly into the UK's mainstream. This Glasgow Academy show was sold out well in advance, and the appetite seems to be there for much more.
How much further into arena territory Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg might travel is yet to be charted, but for now it's just pleasing to hear winsome, traditional rock so convincingly updated in a manner that doesn't rely on doe-eyed, bearded men singing it. 'Emmylou' (named in honour of Emmylou Harris and played later in the show) places their influences amid a certain vintage of female American singer-songwriter, and the Soderbergs offer an admirably vital recreation of the sound of Harris, Joni Mitchell, et al; Plus, there's a direct reference to Heart (also sisters), whose 'Crazy On You' they cover during the show.
Against a video backdrop showing dust-blown Midwestern roads and old family footage of the pair, there's a delicate elegia to many of First Aid Kit's songs, from the careworn opener 'Rebel Heart' to the steadily upbeat 'King of the World' ('I'm nobody's baby / I'm everybody's girl'). The latter track was cannily prefaced by a dedication to Scotland's victorious rugby team, offered through chugs of Irn-Bru from a two-litre bottle, and there was a large degree of success in just getting through that segue without making it sound corny.
The Soderberg's voices are similar but resonantly complimentary, and their real power – aside from some great and evocative songs, like the resonant 'Stay Gold', 'To Live a Life' ('I've been drinking cheap wine, I'm just like my mother') and the epic emotional honesty of 'Nothing has to Be True' – is in the way they combine wide-eyed wonder and weather-beaten experience within the space of a line. Atypically amid their music, 'You Are the Problem Here' surges on shouted-hoarse anger and a call to all, women and men, to speak out after #metoo. During an already powerful set, this heartfelt interlude emphasises the grit lying just fellow the surface of their pearl-smooth music.
Reviewed at the O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sat 24 Feb. First Aid Kit play the Albert Hall, Mancheser, Tue 27 Feb; Roundhouse, London, Thu 1 & Fri 2 Mar.