Everyone has a bucket list of things they want to see in a concert. There are some cliche hilarious things we'd all like to see. A woman throwing her underwear at a rock legend. People fainting at the sight of a musical hero. A bare-knuckle brawl between two band members (preferably the Gallagher brothers). Other items are generally more personal per person (i.e. my desire to hear James Mercer sing "New Slang" in real life or to hear Win Butler and crew performing "Tunnels"). The holy grail of concert moments is a show that literally moves its patrons to tears. While my apparently Grinch-like heart wasn't as moved as the rest of the sold-out crowd at Webster Hall, a rousing and nearly spiritual performance from Swedish folk act First Aid Kit
caused spontaneous outbreaks of grown women crying the entire set and that sheer emotional power was worth the price of admission alone.
The evening began with a low-key performance from London anti-folk band Peggy Sue
. Their combination of a blues influenced folk with layered harmonies and darker melodies made for an intriguing act even if it didn't quite live up to its promise. The band didn't have much in the way of charisma or presence, and while their set was solid, they were having trouble controlling the attention of the antsy Webster Hall crowd that wanted their fix of Swedish singing sisters. Their textured music would likely make for a compelling album experience, but they definitely need work on translating sonic ambition to stage energy. However, if there was one notable aspect of their act, it was their drummer, Olly Joyce, who proved that you don't have to be the fastest drummer on the planet to create entrancing beats and unexpected rhythms.
First Aid Kit took the stage at around ten, and they played until nearly 11:20 for a satisfyingly lengthy set. Performing tracks from the entirety of their growing discography, Johanna and Klara Soderbergh found plenty of times for tracks from The Lion's Roar
("Emmylou," "King of the World," "Blue") as well as their debut album, The Big Black and the Blue
, and their EP, Drunken Trees
. With Klara on guitar and Johanna taking double duty on the keyboard and the harpsichord, the band powered their way through their set with heaping doses of charm and gratitude. While a large portion of the set found the band playing simple, country-tinged folk, even when the music wasn't especially complicated, Johanna and Klara's soaring melodies and angelic voices demanded the audience's attention. The night's most satisfying moments though were when the sisters let loose on up-tempo, foot-stomping, hair-swinging (their hair should be credited as members of their live act because it was so entertaining), rapturous moments of communal beauty.
The most memorable moment of the night though involved almost no frills whatsoever. Unplugging their guitars, stepping away from the mics, and abandoning the keyboard, the duo stepped to the edge of the stage and engaged the audience in a haunting sing-along of "Ghost Town." This was the moment in the set when half of the women around me began crying, and it didn't really stop until the show was over. Despite not having any microphones and dealing with an audience that was atonally singing along with their melodies, Johanna and Klara's voices still managed to ring out strong and clear above the crowd. Similarly, a cover of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" had the audience simultaneously dancing and an emotional mess. It's pretty difficult to overstate the visceral reaction this band's woodsy folk was evoking in their loyal audience at Webster Hall.
Despite the fact that Johanna is barely old enough to drink and Klara is barely legal period, these two sisters are remarkably mature performers, and their quickly growing fan base is only going to continue to grow if they keep putting on shows like this. It's hard to imagine that anyone felt unsatisfied after their deeply emotional set. Even if you don't appreciate folk music, find a live video of this duo performing "Emmylou" or "King of the World," and they might change your mind. Last night's show at Webster Hall was one of the first shows in the current American tour, and with an upcoming set at Coachella, we can guarantee that you'll be hearing more about First Aid Kit.
If you're craving even more First Aid Kit, check out this exclusive footage we have of the band back in 2010 when they were even more unbelievably young yet still exceptionally talented.