Sitting alongside perennial hit makers Goldfrapp and buzzy new chart acts like Of Monsters And Men, Jessie Ware and Tom Odell, First Aid Kit’s headline appearance on the bill of the Summer Series at Somerset House on paper seems a little odd. The Swedish sisters’ last album, the folksy, at times eerie, The Lion’s Roar, came out back in January 2012. They played their biggest UK show to date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire last November, but since then they’ve remained resolutely silent.
That second album proved a low key success, gradually building momentum throughout the year – and evidently earning them a loyal fanbase along the way, because tonight’s show, like all of the Summer Series’ two week long stint, is sold out. And most of the audience know every word the Söderberg sisters sing.
With just two albums under their belt, the set flits between the band’s various personas – they’re part Swedish earth mothers, part head banging rockers and part folk music obsessives. The first half of the set is the tamest; all haunting balladry and spooked landscapes. The biggest surprise comes from the reaction to Emmylou; a highlight of The Lion’s Roar, it’s “a song about singing with someone you love”, tells Klara. With its references to Ms Harris, Gram Parsons, June Carter and Johnny Cash, it gives an insight into their musical upbringing – and the audience sing-a-long is almost as pitch-perfect as the sounds coming from the stage.
It’s not the only time they reel off their influences. The pair first made their name in 2007, when they posted their take on Fleet Foxes’ Mountain Peasant Song on YouTube, and their naive, charming – verging on kooky – approach to cover versions hasn’t dwindled since they were given a platform to release their own songs – even if the targets of their reworkings are somewhat larger. Tonight sees them tackle One More Cup Of Coffee “by some guy called Bob Dylan”, a scenic and touching America by their heroes Simon and Garfunkel, and “a folk song by Patti Smith” – an ode to Edward Snowden which is disappointingly lost on the crowd.
Despite the grand setting, tonight’s is a more confident and collected performance than their last outing in London. While Klara stumbles over the opening lyrics to Ghost Town, that’s all forgotten as she weaves the chimes of an unwitting clock into the song’s finale. But it’s not all played out so precisely, and some songs fail to ignite. This Old Routine – a heartbreaking tale of tired relationships – elicits whoops as it’s announced, but doesn’t reach the teary heights it’s capable of. New track Waitress Song similarly floats along with no real impact. But as night begins to fall and the spotlights come on, the sisters’ darker side begins to show, and a shadowy Joanna comes to life, swinging her trademark long hair and rocking back and forth into her piano with an almost unnatural violence.
It’s a huge contrast to the sweet, lullaby lilts of much of the set, and a welcome change of tone which, ahead of album number three, stamps their intent on an already sold audience, while they seem perfectly at home amongst the big players sharing the stage at Somerset House over the fortnight.