“Tonight, we dance. Tomorrow, we cry,” insisted First Aid Kit’s Johanna Söderberg on night two of their sold-out shows at the Hammersmith Apollo.
Along with her sister Klara, the duo drew their UK tour to a close with the crackling and thrilling electricity of a band who wanted to defy last orders and keep the show trundling down the road.
Donning attire that looked like they’d landed fresh from a Las Vegas rodeo, the siblings charged about with the energy you’d associate with the opening night of a tour.
Flanked by a four-piece backing band, they opened by tearing through the title track of their new album Palamino and its lead single, ‘Angel’. The Swedish sisters flung their hair around and drank in every moment. It was a beguiling spectacle to warm the soul, enliven the spirit, and tickle the eardrums.
“We’ve been going 15 years,” marvelled Klara with a more than a dash of disbelief. It’s certainly true that the Söderbergs have come a long way since that morning when they decamped deep into the forest in 2008 to film a spellbinding cover of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’. Five albums and multiple BRIT nominations later, and they are firmly established as lead lights of the folk and country genre. Palamino, their fifth record, is as strong as anything they’ve released.
Tracks from this latest offering were generously sprinkled throughout their 90-minute set and sat cosily next to the more familiar.
Although the duo have mastered their way around a concise acoustic lament, it was on moments such as ‘Rebel Heart’, when a false ending leads into an extended electric guitar and piano-driven outro (replicated from a studio version off their Ruins album) that you gleaned a tantalising whiff of where they could go if they permitted a little more self-indulgence. If they only dug into the groove once in a while and allowed a musical excursion, it would add more shades to their canvass. And it’s clear that it fits them well.
On the flipside, when the siblings pared things back and stood alone mid-set for a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird’ (dedicated to the recently departed Christine McVie), it was so transcendental that the audience was stunned into silence. Superlatives be damned – this was as good as it gets. Elsewhere, the likes of evergreen old favourites ‘Emmylou’ and a closing ‘My Silver Lining’ sounded as joyful, defiant, and timeless as ever.
First Aid Kit’s winsome country may thread through the telegraph poles of yesteryear so comprehensively that the ‘Wichita Lineman’ could pick them up on the line, yet they sound like no one else.
It’s likely thanks, in part, to their irresistible two-part harmonies – harmonies which could go toe-to-toe with any pairing in the history of recorded popular song – and their knack for articulating heartache that is mature, hopeful, helpful, and wise. It’s an intoxicating blend.
Klara had taken stock of where First Aid Kit are now with reference to the road travelled, admitting that last album Ruins was “a break-up record” and the aim for Palamino was a more buoyant mood.
We 100% felt like dancing queens last night in London at @EventimApollo ! Can’t wait for tonight and the very last show on the UK #Palomino tour. It’s been such a wild ride, one for the books. ❤️🔥 📸: @olofgrind pic.twitter.com/udY9VG5h42
— First Aid Kit (@FirstAidKitBand) December 9, 2022
With a knowing smile, she conceded that they might have succeeded musically, but the vestiges of sadness permeate the lyrics. It’s as though melancholia is a cloak they find hard to leave behind.
Looking at the sea of faces spanning all ages and genders at the Hammersmith Apollo, it was apparent this is why they are so cherished. As the band bowed to the tune of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ blasting out the speakers, and with rapturous applause bouncing off the walls, the message to First Aid Kit was clear: just keep on keeping on.