If there’s one thing I took away from Friday nights First Aid Kit show, it’s that I need to educate myself on their first record. Granted they played all ten songs off The Lion’s Roar, and they were all great, but they also selected a few numbers from their older album and I felt left out of the group. This especially rang true toward the end of the night when the Soderberg sisters stepped away from the mics for a sing-a-long version of their 2010 single “Ghost Town.” I felt like one of the few people in the sold out crowd who didn’t know the words. So I did what any good concertgoer would do: I moved my mouth like I was singing along, but really it was jibberish.
I was really impressed with their ability to harmonize live as well as they do on record. Every song on The Lion’s Roar has some point where both Klara and Johanna are singing and it’s magnificent. To be able to pull that off on stage shows me that they’re talent isn’t a product of the recording studio. You wouldn’t think that two girls playing folk music would utterly engross an audience, but there we were. No one talked. Eyes were constantly forward. It was an impressive display of restraint from a Chicago crowd that generally leaves me infuriated.
They kicked it off with “This Old Routine.” At first I thought it was an odd choice. Generally bands lead with the first track off their latest record or a single. After the first verse I realized that the song really does set the tone of their show, bittersweet and optimistic. It helps that Klara nails every emotion and thought with her voice.
The single “Emmylou” popped up much earlier than I thought it would. Somewhere near the middle of the show they announced that the next tune was about some of their heroes-singers and singing duos like Johnny Cash, June Carter, Graham Parsons and Emmylou Harris. If you’ve read my review of The Lion’s Roar, you know that I said “Emmylou” would probably be the song of the year (even though it came out in January). After hearing it live, played perfectly, and seeing the crowd reaction, I’m comfortable with that assertion.
Surprisingly I found that “Emmylou” wasn’t the highlight of the night for me. That came when the band played “New Year’s Eve.” Johanna stepped away from the keys and picked up the harp. Klara gave her guitar a rest and just let loose with her voice. It was easily the strongest vocal performance of the night, and that’s saying something.
I liked that they ended their set with two songs that make perfect sense together: “I Met Up With The King” off The Big Black And The Blue and “King Of The World,” the final track on The Lion’s Roar. Earlier in the show they’d announced that Mike Mogis, producer of their album and Bright Eyes/Saddle Creek member, was in attendance. With that knowledge I was holding out hope that Conor Oberst would show up and play the last song with them like he does on the album. Alas, that did not happen. Johanna sang Conor’s part, and it sounded great. But if I were seeing the band in Omaha I would have been severely let down.
Here is the set list, as I remember it:
This Old Routine
In The Hearts Of Men
New Year’s Eve
To A Poet
Ghost Town (at front of stage)
When I Grow Up (Fever Ray cover)
Dance To Another Tune
The Lion’s Roar
Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith cover)
I Met Up With The King
King Of The World (sans Oberst)