Friday, March 9, 2012

First Aid Kit - International Festival of The Arts - Telstra Festival Club, 8 March 2012

Klara and Johanna on Stage in Wellington

*Also published on , March 2012

When Swedish folk duo composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg hesitantly took the stage last night there was good reason. Johanna fumbled with her guitar cord for a few moments and restarted the first number “This old routine’ twice before she was fully comfortable on the stage. They later apologized, explaining that they’d only just touched down, with sodden luggage and nothing to wear. Apparently Klara’s keyboard had to be aerated with a blow drier before it was fully functional. The quiet, appreciative 200 strong crowd smiled on through all this like admiring parents - compassionate and understanding. And soon the early hiccups were forgotten as the girls soon took over their stage with beautiful lilting harmonies and hook laden folk and country. Eyes widened on “Emylou”, which lists all their favourite Nashville heroes but frowns were stead fast on “In the Hearts of Men”. The rapport with punters was a little clunky as Klara and Johanna took turns to make various observations and notes of introduction in their perfect American influenced accents.

The shy, staccato innocent presence was gradually winning us over. Songs were dedicated to local family members, to Richard Dawkins (“Hard Believer”), early career band champion Fever Ray (“a cover – “When I grow up”) and the weather, who played a special part by appropriately howling around the tent during the lullaby lament “Ghost town”. With the addition of local references in the same song the audience finally warmed and smiles appeared like Christmas tree lights on faces around the room. All in all the repertoire was delicate and trippy, sparsely played with just guitar, keys and a pared down drum kit operated by an anonymous goati-ed, long haired player. If fact the fourth band member of the night appeared to be the girls’ long waist-length tresses, cut in 70’s styles, swishing around and at times curtaining off their faces, adding an additional layer of mysterious removal.

For a show the audience knew little of they were an appreciative bunch, especially by “Lion’s Roar”, the title track from the new album and the show’s closer. Many leapt to their feet and stomped and clapped te band back on for a one song encore: “King of the World”, a rousing folk manifesto of self awareness. For a festival show, this appearance seemed fairly pedestrian yet I’m glad I got the chance to see this duo and look forward to many more releases from them in the future. Here’s hoping on their next tour the sun shines on the baggage!

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