LIVE REVIEW: First Aid Kit, Royal Albert Hall, 24/09/14

You may not expect an act like Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit to sell out the Royal Albert Hall.  And apparently neither did they, as they recounted the story of their tour manager promising to book the venue. Yet here they were, sumptuously backlit on the stage dressed in matching gold.  Their popularity has been steadily gaining momentum, especially this year since the release of their third album Stay Gold (hence the outfits – but of course).

It’s clear that the duo’s country-folk music is palatable for both scandi-pop fans and folk aficionados, given the varied demographic in attendance, and there’s obviously something inherently Swedish about their sound.  There’s a sense of frosty pastoral landscapes as their voices rise in stunning harmony over guitars, keys and strings.  Accompaniment came from the Stockholm Strings quartet, for a sound more richly layered than a princess torte.  And with their 70s fashion style, both sisters (blonde and dark-haired) totally in sync with one another, there’s certainly a resemblance to Abba.

That said, their main influences are American.  Stay Gold was produced in Nebraska and the prominence of slide guitar on the majority of their songs offers a distinctly country twang amongst the lilting tunes and jaunty rhythms.  Their set consisted of songs from throughout their career, with the addition of some covers: a rendition of Jack White’s Love Interruption proved the girls could rock out, whilst their performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s America was truly angelic.  It was on The Lion’s Roar that the sisters truly let loose though, Klara shredding her guitar and Johanna hammering away at her keyboard, flinging their impossibly beautiful hair with abandon.  Their music may seem genteel, but there’s grit and authenticity to their stage show.

The real highlights, though, came in the quieter moments.  The sisters stepped forward to perform Ghost Town without microphones, which allowed their voices to ring out uninterrupted.  Later, A Long Time Ago offered an emotional sucker punch with its melancholic chorus (“I was the one you counted on / But I was never the one for you”), performed solely by the sisters on guitar and keys – a quiet and reflective moment before Emmylou, the song the crowd were waiting for, ended the gig on an uptempo high.  Even in such a huge venue, First Aid Kit proved their gorgeous harmonious music is perfect to drift away to.  Or, as one very English audience member shouted, “that was bloody marvellous.” Quite.

Ed Nightingale

Photo credit: Joseph Okpako / Getty

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First Aid Kit, Royal Albert Hall
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