First Aid Kit – Scala 23rd February, 2012

Midway through First Aid Kit‘s show the two girls say something which surprises me.

They tell us the previous time they’d played this London venue, in support of another group from their native Sweden, they were still in school and homework awaited them after the show. “I think I must have been fifteen then” Klara adds.

Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg are still just nineteen and twenty-one years-old respectively, but they write and sing songs with an outlook on life way beyond their years. Their height (they tower over me, though most people do to be fair) adds to the impression. It’s easy to forget their age.

First Aid Kit have brought their world tour to the UK soon after their The Lion’s Roar LP gave them their first Gold Record in Sweden, representing sales of more than 20,000 copies. This show itself had already been upgraded to the Scala from the smaller Kings College due to demand. We’ve taken to First Aid Kit, and it’s easy to see why. They’re charming. They’re adorable. And they have a knack of writing folk-influenced pop songs which are simply so hard to resist.

Opening with This Old Routine, they set about charming a sell-out crowd with twin vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, keyboard and the addition of talented drummer Mattias Bergqvist who uses brushes rather than sticks for the most part so as not to intrude on the main attraction; the stunning voices possessed by these girls.

Those voices. They also possess a remarkable ability to weave them in and out of each other in perfect harmony, note-perfect. Their father, on sound duties, does a wonderful job of letting them soar. He gets to keep an eye on his daughters as he does so.

Current single Emmylou arrives early on, surprisingly early and here’s another surprising thing; what are girls this age doing writing tributes to Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, with references to Johnny and June Carter Cash? If you can find another 19 year-old who knows who Gram Parsons was I’ll be surprised.

They dip into The Big Black and The Blue LP for Heavy Storm and for the desperately sad but incredibly catchy Ghost Town, the latter performed without microphones and with an invitation to anyone who knows the words to sing along. We’d rather hear the band, though, so most hold their breath, giving the occasional shush to anyone who thinks about taking up the offer. You could hear a pin drop. It’s lovely. They’ve come a long way since Ghost Town, but lovely it remains.

Things liven up as the show progresses; Mattias switches to drumsticks, the bass played on keys by Johanna gets bigger and To A Poet and Wolf have quite a kick. A cover of Fever Ray (The Knife‘s Karin Dreijer Andersson)’s When I Grow Up blends their folk voices with a key-heavy electronic wash. A different sound altogether. It suits them. One of the show’s highlights for me.

They do rock too, of a sort. The Lion’s Roar gets a bigger sound tonight and on stage, well, there’s flying hair, everywhere.

They leave an enchanted crowd behind, announcing their intention to sign vinyl at the merch-desk and suggest “come see us with your problems, issues or whatever. We’ll help, we’ll be your first aid kit“. Haha, they couldn’t resist the joke apparently. Bless them.

I didn’t visit the merch-desk. After that show I’m not sure I could have resisted leaping over the counter for a hug. I bet they’d have fixed all my problems too.

Charming, endearing, funny, a mesmerising live act. Get yourself to a First Aid Kit show the next opportunity you get. And give them a hug from me.

Photographs courtesy of the hyper-talented Phil Smithies. Thanks.