Wednesday, April 18, 2018

First Aid Kit enthralls at The Observatory

First Aid Kit's Johanna (left) and Klara Söderberg at The Observatory
in Santa Ana on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Photo credit: Bob Steshetz
A full decade after being introduced to the world via a YouTube cover of the Fleet Foxes song "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" in 2008, First Aid Kit stand tall alongside their illustrious influences as one of modern music's greatest Americana voices. That was made clear throughout a powerful and inspired set delivered by the Swedish folk duo  sisters Klara  (vocals, guitar) and Johanna Söderberg (vocals/bass guitar)  at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA on Tuesday night (April 17).
Klara Söderberg at The Observatory

Backed by a drummer, pedal steel guitarist and keyboardist, First Aid Kit was coming off an outstanding appearance at Coachella on April 14, but turned around and upped the quotient with a 90-minute headlining "Localchella" appearance in Orange County courtesy of Coachellafest concert promoter Goldenvoice. This was an extended set that allowed the duo to perform a mix of early favorites, gems pulled from their latest album Ruins and even a rousing cover of a classic from Heart (another band anchored by talented sisters).
Johanna Söderberg on April 17.

Opening with "Rebel Heart" (the first track off 2018's Ruins), the shimmering sound of the Söderbergs' vocal harmonies seemed to grab and enthrall the capacity crowd in an instant. The song's first section ended with the sisters voices mirroring each other for a long and dramatic note which ended with sudden silence before the venue erupted with the audience's cheers; next was an artful and powerful instrumental build to further enhance the song.

The duo followed up that potent opener with "It's a Shame," where the siblings' singing was even more otherworldly, transcendent really.

If the amazing sound of the sisters' voices was the only weapon in their arsenal it might be difficult for First Aid Kit to pull off a full set with the magic displayed early. But to be sure, First Aid Kit's gift for writing poignant and melodic songs that span a sonic backdrop stretching from traditional country western and roots rock to contemporary indie rock as well as their strength as live performers confirmed their greatness. Icing on the cake when you consider powerful guitar solos, strobe lights and more dynamics have been a part of their burgeoning approach.

On "King of the World," keyboardist Steve Moore utilized his skills on trombone to add additional loveliness to that track. His eloquent keyboard playing shone just as artfully on "Postcard."

And so the fast-moving concert went, with First Aid Kit's front line talents as singers and musicians bolstered by the talents of a top-tier backing trio, and the energy and enthusiasm generated by the crowd (a mix of several generations to be sure, with millennial and Baby Boomers all swept up in the show).  

Among the harder alt-rock moments were the one-two punch of "The Lion's Roar" and "You Are the Problem Here," the latter an aptly-timed attack on men who commit or are complicit in sexual assaults against women. "We're finally talking about this," said Klara after the song's fiery delivery. "Girls...women, we hope you feel empowered."

Other highlights of the night came via the rhythmically-minded "My Wild Sweet Love," country-tinged rocker "Wolf" (with each of the two sisters using tambourines to further drive the song) and a wonderful countrified take on Heart's "Crazy On You" that had seemingly everyone on the floor moving to the speedy version.

A rich mix of rockers and folk-styled material in the last part of the concert included the gorgeous "Fireworks," the captivating "Emmylou" (complete with a winning a Capella singalong by everyone in the house), and an encore of the acoustic-styled "Hem of Her Dress," celebratory "Master Pretender" and haunting country-flavored "My Silver Lining."

Jade Bird performing on April 17,
2018 at The Observatory.
Opening the concert was U.K. singer-songwriter Jade Bird, who went out with her acoustic guitar and proceeded to win over the audience with her forceful personality and compelling songs. Among the memorable songs was the introspective "Furious" and set-ending folk rocker "Lottery." (You can view the official music video for "Lottery" here).
Get more information on the rising artist on her official website here.

First Aid Kit set list on April 17, 2018
Rebel Heart / It's a Shame / (a snippet of "California, Here We Come") / King of the World / Postcard / Stay Gold / The Lion's Roar / You Are the Problem Here / To Live a Life / My Wild Sweet Love / Wolf / Crazy On You (cover of a Heart song) / Fireworks / Emmylou / Nothing Has To Be True
Hem of Her Dress / Master Pretender / My Silver Lining

Note: First Aid Kit is scheduled to perform a 45-minute set at Weekend 2 of Coachella at 4:35 p.m. on the Outdoor Theatre stage on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photography by Bob Steshetz

1 comment:

Bobbofallenstar said...

So bummed I missed this show. I'm a huge FAK fan but it sold out before I knew about it.

Thanks for the great review of the show.