There is something to be said for family bands. I am a total sucker for two female voices with a clean harmony, but when the voices belong to sisters, they achieve a different level of perfection. At least that is the case for First Aid Kit.
The Swedish sisters had a good run on their last album, 2012’s The Lion’s Roar, selling out venues internationally and performing in festivals all over the world, but with the upcoming release of their latest record, Stay Gold, they are creating a better concert experience than ever before and doing so with grace, elegance, and precision.
Singer/songwriter Willy Mason opened First Aid Kit’s show at El Rey Theatre last week with a simple and soulful set that got the mood just right. His guitar had a subtle twang and provided a perfect contrast to his soft croon. Mason’s songs painted personal tales of wanderlust; listening to them makes you want to drive through Kansas or find a log cabin where you can spend a month. His folk/country sound was a perfect way to start the night.
When I first saw First Aid Kit live it was at The Fillmore in San Francisco, and Johanna and Klara Söderberg dressed well and had solid lighting, but that show was nothing like the one at El Rey Wednesday night. With their third album set for release next week, one of the hottest indie/folk bands out right now came to LA to let everyone know that they are more than just the bee’s knees — they are the wings and the stinger, too.
With a shimmering gold backdrop lit perfectly behind them, the sisters of First Aid Kit stood on the stage wearing matching gold dresses and shoes like it was no big thing. The lights spun rays behind the two, making their silhouettes glow. The sold-out crowd ate it up like popcorn at the movies, and yes, I will take that free refill.
The set began with a display of First Aid Kit’s vocal perfection, a sound of incomparable precision and power. Bands who have been playing together for 5-10 years learn to complement each other vocally, but two people that grew up in the same household, undoubtedly singing together from a very young age, can sound like one voice. I found myself constantly looking between the two girls trying to figure out who was singing which part, but their combined range and ability to sync together made it practically impossible.
New material comprised nearly half of First Aid Kit’s set, which crowds that want to hear songs they know can find disappointing, but after every song of this set, the crowd responded with an extended amount of cheering and appreciation for the work the band put into their new release.
The group also made a point to play a fair amount of older material as well as covers. When they unearthed Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup Of Coffee,” it was clear who the Dylan fans in the crowd were; I even heard an “Oh damn” from someone in the crowd. First Aid Kit also paid tribute to Simon & Garfunkel, who are probably one of their biggest influences, playing “America,” which went over well with the crowd for obvious reasons.
One of the most incredible moments of the set came about 6-7 songs in when First Aid Kit performed a completely acoustic version of “Ghost Town” from their first album. They unplugged the guitar and stepped away from the microphones, relying on the sheer power of their voices to fill the theatre and leaving the audience silent (except for that one asshole by the bar…you know who you are).
First Aid Kit closed with what is probably their biggest hit, “Emmylou,” a song that pays tribute to two great country couples they grew up listening to: Emmylou Harris & Graham Parsons and Johnny Cash & June Carter. Before closing the night, Johanna and Klara thanked the audience, the band, and their father, who was actually running sound for their set.
It was an amazing show. First Aid Kit is quickly becoming one of my favorite acts based on their vocals alone. The feeling you get when listening to them harmonize is both hair-raising and breathtaking. Stay Gold is out next week. Get it. This band isn’t slowing down, and they’ll soon be your new favorite too.
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