ACL Review: First Aid Kit

The Söderberg sound evolves but remains magical

Five years ago, First Aid Kit played a modest, early afternoon Friday of ACL. Our review was positive, focusing on the young Swedish sisters’ promise, but noted there was room for growth. This time around, in front of several thousand people on Sunday around supper time, FAK’s set proved near-perfect.

One major change turned out to be the stage dynamics.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Aside from the three band members fleshing out Klara and Johanna Söderberg’s sound, the latter group founder, who handled keys previously, spent the Swedes’ two-year tour hiatus learning to play the bass. In a pre-ACL interview with the Chronicle, she said piano felt restrictive and she wanted to rock out. On Sunday she did, along with her guitarist sister.

That imbued the duo’s live show with more playfulness and head-banging, pushing First Aid Kit further into rock & roll.

Slowly but surely, the folksy Europeans have evolved from darling 2010 debut The Big Black and the Blue to master a sophisticated, diversified sonic palette. Bouncing new single “It’s a Shame” sounded nothing like another new track, “Fireworks,” a meandering, sweet lullaby. Howling “You Are the Problem Here” proved a stand-out moment that ditched pedal steel twang for an unabashedly feminist and empowering rage.

FAK’s staples made appearances: “Wolf” and “Stay Gold,” both hazy and atmospheric, and the wistful “Waitress Song.” A cover of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” slipped in, too. Beloved “Emmylou” appeared second to last, the sisters taking a step back to let the audience handle the love song’s refrain, while “My Silver Lining” closed.

Even with a sprawling range of sound, an obsession with storytelling and the romanticism of Seventies Americana served as cohesion for FAK’s entrancing, aching work. The Söderberg sisters’ brooding edge and striking vocal harmonies elevated First Aid Kit’s return to ACL to both singular and magical.

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More First Aid Kit
Sunday ACL Fest Interview: First Aid Kit
Sunday ACL Fest Interview: First Aid Kit
Swedish sisters take rock songs toward topical matters

Libby Webster, Oct. 6, 2017

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 Saturday Reviews
First Aid Kit
Stay Gold (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Nov. 7, 2014

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First Aid Kit, ACL Fest 2017, Klara Söderberg, Johanna Söderberg, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harris

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