By Max Modell
On their Rebel Hearts tour, First Aid Kit came to Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena and captivated the audience with their Americana folk sound which had the ability to make the audience smile, laugh and cry. From their trademark sad slow songs, to angry protest songs and a couple of more psychedelic numbers which really allowed the girls to rock out, First Aid Kit took the audience on a whirlwind emotional journey. They did all of this while wearing a pair of silver dresses which dazzled almost as much as they did.
The night opened with “A Distant Star”, a classic country ballad, both stylistically and in its melancholic narrative. While this may sound like a soft opening to the show, the power of the sister’s harmonies and the bluesy almost psychedelic breakdown in the final third of the song ensured this was an electric opening.
The show was more physical than I ever could have imagined with the band rocking out with extended solos and interacting a lot with their incredible backing band. This was illustrated best in “Lion’s Roar” which ended with an extended instrumental with the girls flicking their luscious hair back and forth. It was so infectious and fun than the bearded and long-haired keyboard play could help but get in on the act.
The fun of this headbanging was then sharply contrasted by “You are the Problem Here” a protest song about rape culture. Considering the subject matter, it is unsurprising this is an angry aggressive song which shares as much DNA with a punk song as it does Americana rock. This was followed by an impassioned speech from Klara about the horrors of this culture.
Later in the set, they brought support act The Staves back on stage to do a cover of fellow Swedish artist Lykke Li’s song “Hard Rain”. This was a nice moment in the set as it allowed the two sets of sisters and friends to come together as one. Yet despite this, the harmonies were less complex and interesting than in either The Staves or First Aid Kit’s own material and this song lacked the polish of every other song from the evening. This left this moment which should have been a highlight of the show as a slight disappointment.
The night closed with a three-part encore, the first of these numbers being “Rebel Heart”. This is a song which had disappointed me on the album and sadly the live performance didn’t change my mind. The song is not as dynamic as their other works and while the storytelling tries to tap into the same emotional vein as their other songs its narrative is decidedly more generic and lacking in nuance. Also, when you consider the lack of lyrical and music development it runs quite long at over five minutes. However, this was followed up by the two highlights of the evening, the melancholic and beautiful “Fireworks” and “Silver Lining”, which both capture the feeling that “Rebel Heart” tried and failed to capture.
In a live setting First Aid Kit have it all; emotive lyrics, exquisite storytelling, superb musicianship, and a surprising ability to rock. Next time they are in town, expect to see me there, and if it looks like I’m crying I promise it’s just my hay fever.