It’s been a good five years since the world first picked up on Sweden’s First Aid Kit. It was a Fleet Foxes cover that made people take notice and since then they have slowly been gathering momentum thanks to two records of country-tinged bliss. Not to mention the fact they’ve released a single as part of Jack White‘s 7” blue series collection and are winners of a Nordic Music Prize. It feels as if they’ve been around for ages, and yet they’re still only in their mid-20s.
Fast forward to the present and they’re selling out the charming, old school surroundings of theatres such as the Islington Assembly Hall, where they choose to debut Stay Gold, their upcoming third album. Everything is in place for First Aid Kit to dazzle and beguile. The Söderberg sisters, flanked by a two-piece drummer and lap steel guitarist, take to the stage to be greeted by a big cheer from an incredibly supportive audience and the sound at the venue is top notch. The moment is theirs for the taking.
The set is a fairly even mix of a new tracks, some of which are possibly played live for the first time, interspersed with older favourites. The material from Stay Gold doesn’t stray too much from their winning formula but the songwriting and harmonies are as sharp as ever. Waitress Song is utterly engrossing, Cedar Lane has some stunning melodies and My Silver Lining, the lead single, whilst lacking the sweeping string arrangements that makes the recorded version such a joy, is still captivating nonetheless.
All of this is well and good, yet it’s the tunes from The Lion’s Roar that gets the most cheers. Blue and Wolf get the kind of reaction that’s reserved for rock stars upon their respective introductions. King Of The World has everyone clapping along without any encouragement. The title track itself remains as beautifully grandiose as ever – the dramatic crescendo is milked to the maximum – whilst Emmylou acts as a sweet and tender finish to the evening.
The undisputed highlight though arrives midway through. For their rendition of Ghost Town (a slightly older cut), Klara and Johanna decide to go unplugged and sing on the edge of the stage. During the choruses, the audience plays the role of backing vocals – their gentle baritone voices (in comparison to the higher-pitched harmonies of the Söderberg sisters) somehow adding to what is already a mighty, compelling, heart-stopping performance. As well as showing just how confident they are as performers, it’s a show-stopper that comes somewhat out of the blue and should rightfully linger long in the memory for those witnessed it.
Early on in the evening, they talk about their first ever show in the capital (at the 12 Bar Club) and how they found their trip to be one of the most exciting experiences of their lives at the time. They look like a pair that seem giddy-eyed at the prospect of playing to a crowd in London who are willing to pay attention, let alone sing along word for word to their songs. Their popularity, as well as their songwriting skills, continue to go from strength to strength and, all being well, everything is set for them to go big by the time 2014 is done.