First Aid Kit @ Shoreditch Town Hall, London –1st November 2017

Posted by Gig Junkies on Wednesday Nov 1, 2017 Under Americana, Country, Folk, Indie

Review and photography by John Hayhurst.

The Swedish Söderberg sisters, First Aid Kit, return with a not so quiet night in and plenty of headshaking and dancing for the hipster Shoreditch set. Yes! I’m in Shoreditch, hipster central, and for a man from Yorkshire who doesn’t have any facial hair, I’m as far removed from my normal habitat like a giraffe at a small shrubbery convention. However, the reason I have traversed 200 miles south is to see First Aid Kit. This is a band I have loved on record for many years, but never quite managed to catch them in a live setting before.

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Tonight, I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m at a very low-key gig for them, and they haven’t played an indoor concert in the UK for quite some time, reserving their live appearances for festivals, including a well-received set at Glastonbury earlier this year.

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Klara and Johanna emerge from the sides of the stage to take their places in front of an extensive backline of musicians that they have picked up on their worldly travels, a drummer from Scotland, a bloke nicknamed Tiger on pedal steel, guitar and mandolin. There is a keyboard player who sure plays a mean trombone, and an extra percussionist. The back of this stage is littered with quality and it shows from the off as they burst into ‘Wolf’ a single released almost 5 years ago now and then follow that with ‘Master Pretender’, so already we have despatched some of the big guns in their armoury, in anticipation of the new yet unreleased album ‘Ruins’, perhaps we may get a selection of new material?. Well not quite, we are sticking with their last album ‘Stay Gold’ and ‘Waitress Song’ first, but the tone has been set though with some incredible harmony of vocals and frequent shaking of heads. Not in a disparaging way, no more like a headbanger who has just heard their favourite riff and can’t hold it back. Whilst these girls may be a bit folky and some may even describe as twee, there is a strong bold heart beating underneath all that, and tonight they will show more than enough angst and anger to go with the sweet and sugary.

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First new song ‘Fireworks’ isn’t as they like to point out a cover of the Katy Perry song, although they attempt to sing the same first chorus line, and then forget what comes next. Klara is definitely being the main mouthpiece, and whilst Johanna may be significantly taller and huskier, she tends to just keep plugging at that bass in the background, dancing and shaking her hair around. When their voices combine though it’s a unique tone of its own creation, there is definitely something about sibling harmonies, another British group of sisters are here to watch (The Staves) and as I discover, both artists have that same quality of harmony and sound in their live performances.

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Klara is angry though, she’s angry because yet another case of female sexual assault has gone unpunished and in an attempt to start and make some changes, their new song ‘You Are The Problem Here’ is delivered with some brutal venom of their own. “I hope you f**king suffer” she screams and the heavy guitar sounds accompanying are more akin to a hard rock show than the alt folk we were looking for.

The track takes so much out of her that she is feverishly gulping down the water and then introduces the next one as “here is one we wrote before we became really angry”. ‘Postcard’ (another new one) turns into the biggest slice of Country Music ever heard this side of Nashville. It sways gently and the pedal steel is sublime in the background. We go from metal to western in 8 minutes, things are changing and perhaps this is finally where First Aid Kit are able be released from their ‘teen prodigy’ shackles, it’s a coming of age party at least.

Frequently they stand opposite each other grinning, dancing, head-butting – yes they did that!, and then proceeded to dance with their heads locked together like some kind of sisterly rutting play. It’s great to see that they can perform together in harmony when we have so many brotherly rivalries abound in the music world.

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‘Emmylou’ was as perfect as I expected it to be, faultless and completely blissful – we even had some serious crowd singalongs at the end. However, the pin drop moment happened in the encore when instead of ‘My Silver Lining’ we were treated to a no microphone version of ‘Ghost Town’. How those girls can sing that song so loud to be heard at the back of the hall without amplification was unfathomable, but they did and it felt like a very special intimate moment. I can’t imagine they will be able to recreate that on their 2018 UK tour which will be in several much larger venues than the Shoreditch Town Hall.

No stranger to covering a few songs, we are treated to a George Harrison track ‘Behind That Locked Door’ which was followed by the expected ‘My Silver Lining’ as the final encore.

I’m now regretting all the times in the past when I should have gone to see them, but thankful that I had this chance to witness some quite incredible artists deliver a perfect show. Those 2018 dates are already selling out, so be quick and you may have the chance to see them at the concert halls rather than the Arenas which will surely not be far away.

Master Pretender
Waitress Song
Shattered & Hollow
The Lion’s Roar
You Are The Problem Here
King Of The World
It’s A Shame
Stay Gold

Ghost Town
Behind That Locked Door,
My Silver Lining

The Lion’s Roar [2012]
Stay Gold [2014]

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