First Aid Kit Dazzles The National With Serene Americana
Originally published October 28, 2014
Sunday night, The National was treated to a textbook showcase of true Americana, albeit from Swedish act First Aid Kit as they made their grand debut in Richmond. This wasn’t the popular “folk rock” of the past few years with strumming breakdowns or an obscene amount of auxiliary percussion, but instead a legitimate display of a truly overlooked genre. For those who grew up listening to singers like Lucinda Williams and acts like The Band, there was nothing about this set you wouldn’t enjoy and for those who just enjoy blissful songs, you’re probably still humming their tunes today.
Congenial singer-songwriter Samantha Crain opened the night up with a short set interlaced with some atypical banter that had The National feeling like a local coffeehouse temporarily. Every song had a backstory she was more than willing to share and the Richmond crowd ate up each anecdote whether it be about her adventures with The Church Of Scientology or incomplete fortune cookies. In the past, the Oklahoma native has toured with a full band behind her, but she certainly shines by herself with her soothing, yet soaring voice anchoring each wonderful composition.
The Söderberg sisters took the stage for the next hour and a half running through much of their newest album from this year, Stay Gold, as well as their breakout album, 2012’s The Lion’s Roar. The pacing of the songs were perfect as the sisters and their backing band completely avoided the dreaded lull that loses crowds with the same style of song over and over mid-set. Instead of belaboring the tone of one song, the band would go from upbeat song “King Of The World” into the more solemn “In The Hearts Of Men” which in turn led into the mid-tempo vocal showcase of “Waitress Song.” At no point did they lose the crowd even when pulling out an unfamiliar song like “Ghost Town” from their semi-forgotten debut record, The Big Black And The Blue.
Behind a backdrop that perfectly emulated a starry night, the set washed away the sense of seeing this show at a venue and replaced it with a feeling of watching the songs unfold while lying in the middle of the country starring up into the sky with civilization miles away. All that was missing was a small but determined campfire.
Between songs, Klara and Johanna showed off their down-to-earth personalities by describing their bandmates as “obscenely handsome,” entertaining the crowd with campy cheese puns, and even gushing on the grateful crowd before them. They regaled the crowd with their workings with members of Bright Eyes as well as Jack White, and even treated the crowd to a special and noteworthy cover of White’s single “Love Interruption.”
As the set came to a close, you could feel the musical euphoria fall over the crowd as the familiar pedal steel melody ushered in the band’s most popular song, “Emmylou.” With everyone singing along from the first word to the last chorus, it was the fitting ending to spectacular concert. The Stockholm natives’ debut concert was a humble offering of their work, but with talent like theirs and compositions as emotionally touching as theirs, it made for an unbelievable night of music that fans of all genres would have adored as much as the packed crowd at The National.