First Aid Kit toyed with a range of emotions as they executed a crisp set.

2/7/2018 – House of Blues

“We need to put the blame and shame back where it belongs,” a indignant Klara Söderberg declared from the stage. Along with her sister, Johanna Söderberg, the second half of First Aid Kit, the duo had just finished playing “You Are the Problem Here,” their raucous denunciation of rape culture. Against a smoky backdrop and flashing red lights, the sisters expressed, with gravelly voices, anger and disbelief at the audacity of men who violate women and refuse to take responsibility. “We wrote this song out of frustration, and feeling tired of being really fucking scared.”

Klara and Johanna’s force of feeling was met with equal force from the cheering crowd. It was a moment of togetherness, through anger.

First Aid Kit’s sound and persona draws on the past, borrowing elements from country and folk singers of the 1960s and 70s. Even their style evokes the era: Klara’s red, beruffled dress could just as easily have been worn by Joni Mitchell or Emmylou Harris forty years ago. They don’t just follow traditions in sense of style, but with songs like “You Are the Problem Here” they follow the grand tradition of protest through song. But instead of protesting just The Man, they sing out against the patriarchy.

Politics aside, First Aid Kit put on a great show, full stop. The sisters’ voices are as strong and clear in front of a sold-out crowd  as they would be in a room of fifty. Their latest album, Ruins, is a meditation on heartbreak. They opened the show with Ruins tracks “Rebel Heart” and “It’s a Shame,” followed by an upbeat, old favorite, “King of the World.” This was the general pattern of their set list that dipped and soared with disparate emotions, but never lingered too long in one pit or peak. Their voices sound similar enough that it was a bit of a surprise to find that Klara shoulders the bulk of the singing duties in the band; she started every song but “Nothing Has To Be True” with solo vocals and sung most of the other intermittent solos. What became apparent throughout the set was how rigidly First Aid Kit’s songwriting adheres to a formula: solo, first verse, duo chorus, duo second verse and chorus, solo bridge, and so on. This threatened to become monotonous, but the sisters and their band play with such feeling and precision, that the pattern didn’t overwhelm.

There is something mesmerizing about watching musicians who are truly in sync with each other. The Söderberg sisters, whether from years playing together or from sharing the same DNA, appear remarkably connected, though they hardly looked at each other. They have a shoegaze-y style of performance; hanging their heads during instrumental bridges, and moving in synchrony with each other. Their performance was emotional because their songs are emotional, and they expressed that primarily in their voices, while they wandered lackadaisically around the stage.  

Later in the show, the anger they brought to “You Are the Problem Here”  translated into the raw energy they put into the best moment of the night, a cover of Heart’s 1975 hit, “Crazy on You.” Heart is a also sister duo who started after the peace and passion of sixties folk had given way to the anger an excesses of rock music. The song was fitting for the sisters, linking the past and present. And because they sounded so good doing it.

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