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First Aid Kit (aka. Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg) have come a long way since they began uploading videos to their YouTube channel in 2008. In six years, they’ve released three albums and gone from being a twee indie-country duo to an established act with a purposeful vision, and at their Splendour in the Grass sideshow at the Metro Theatre it seemed they’ve done it all with remarkable ease.
Wearing golden dresses in front of a sparkling gold backdrop, the girls looked somewhere in between Dolly Parton, Neil Young and ABBA if you can imagine it. Suitably, the first tune to be unleashed was the title track of their third and most recent album, Stay Gold. The crowd stood stunned, barely moving and clearly a little taken aback by the sheer power of their harmonies.
They changed colours pretty quickly, moving onto Blue from 2012's The Lion’s Roar. While perkier than Stay Gold it did nothing to unfreeze the crowd, the lack of reaction becoming more awkward than endearing. It took a little banter and a thundering rendition of King of the World to loosen everybody up a bit.
Klara, on guitar, took most of the lead vocals while Johanna, on keys, harmonised. Together they filled the room with their vocal power. Tracks like Waitress Song and In The Hearts of Men showcased their individual vocal prowess as well as their harmonies as they fluctuated between delicate trills and full-bodied singing.
When they weren’t singing, they were charismatic, warm and excitable. Johanna fancied herself a stand-up comedian, telling a joke about a French cheese factory blowing up (the result was “de-brie”) while Klara tuned her guitar.
The most affecting junctures of the evening came when the pair were at their rawest. For early track Ghost Town, the pair stepped away from the microphones and led the crowd in a gentle sing-along. While fans were hushed for the majority of the performance, they subtly joined in on the chorus to provide one of the most heart-warming moments of the night. A cover of Bob Dylan’s One More Cup of Coffee conjured another pin-drop hush.
Their vocal twang is somewhat at odds with their ancestry, but it’s all part of the appeal. Foot-stomping country tracks like Wolf and Master Pretender were believable and energetic. The Lion’s Roar further proved that there is no alt-country act that can be so dark and yet so easy to listen to.
The theatricality of an encore seemed somewhat unnecessary given the genuine nature of the night but it was welcomed no less. They began the return to the stage with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s America, which they have performed in front of Paul Simon himself. It was an arresting, floating performance.
They ended on their most popular song, Emmylou, though it seemed it really didn’t matter what they played. They could’ve filled the set with B-sides and rarities and the loved-up crowd would’ve watched on wide-eyed. They’re effortless masters at what they do.
Image: First Aid Kit live in Sydney / Photo: Ashley Mar