“We tried to make a happy record after all the dark things that happened in the world,” said one of Soderbergh sisters, recently speaking of their latest album, Palomino, at The Anthem. ” But we failed,” she continued.
This is, perhaps, only partially true. First Aid Kit’s latest album, Palomino, expands their sound from its roots in country- and folk-rock to to embrace a more lush, pop-oriented sound. First Aid Kit wear their influences on their sleeves. They are, as they said, “huge Gram Parsons nerds,” and their song, “Wild Horses II,” expresses their preference for the version of the song recorded by Parsons’s band, The Flying Burrito Brothers.
But at The Anthem on July 14, one of the evening’s two covers, dedicated to the late Christine McVie, was a lovely rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird.” When First Aid Kit left the stage, it was to the sound of another great Swedish bad, Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”
American roots music has a surprisingly song following in Soderbergh’s native Scandinavia. The late Doug Sahm, known for his proficiency with all types of Texas music, was at one point signed to a Swedish label and released a number of regional hits there. (I learned this last night from the terrific documentary, Sir Doug and the Cosmic Texas Groove.)
Hailing from Enkede, Sweden, Johanna and Klara Soderbergh (who are not, as far as I know, related to director Stephen Soderbergh) formed First Aid Kit in 2007, leaning heavily into their passion for American country-rock and what Parsons called “cosmic American music.” After meeting with success in their home country, they broke into the international charts with 2012’s The Lion’s Roar (the title cut from which was included in their set) and they’ve never looked back.
First Aid Kit began their set with an old favorite, “Nothing Has To Be True,” then moved on to one of their new songs, “Angel.” Several other new songs made into the evening’s performance: “Fallen Snow” (fitting, for a band from Sweden), “A Feeling That Never Came,” the aforementioned “Wild Horses II,” and, in their encore, “Out of My Head.” During the early set, a slideshow displayed images of the sisters in their gorgeous home country, often accompanied by horses.
Watch the official music video for “Angel” by First Aid Kit on YouTube:
The evening’s second cover, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again,” was the penultimate song in the encore. It’s fitting that the sisters covered Willie, as they are popular, at least in part, for some of the same reasons. Like Willie, the Soderberghs’ vocals are crystal clear; you never find yourself asking, “What song is this?” Audiences like knowing what are artists are playing, and it makes writing a review much easier.
In addition to the handful of new songs and the covers, the evening included a number of the band’s tunes from their back catalog. the title cut of their album 2014 album Stay Gold, “It’s A Shame,” and “Rebel Heart.” “Everybody Has To Learn” was written for one of their daughters. The back end of the set was very intimate, with Klara and Johanna singing “Ghost Town” as a duo. The song, they said, “reminds of us when we first started touring.” The band gathered round a single for an acoustic rendition “Hem of Her Dress.” The main set ended with “Emmylou,” their tribute to Emmylou Harris, followed by “Fireworks.”
When they returned to the stage, the encore was fairly substantial. In addition to “Out of My Head” and the Willie cover, they also played “King of the World” and finished with “My Silver Lining.”
Before First Aid Kit took the stage, The Weather Station, led by Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, played a 30-minute opening set. Like First Aid Kit, The Weather Station’s earlier records leaned into a folky sound, but their more recent albums, Ignorance and How Is It I Should Look At The Stars, embrace a fuller, more pop-oriented production. The set included “Marsh,” Everything I Saw,” “Heart,” “Tried to Tell You,” “Robber,” “Parking Lot,” and “Subdivisions.” They were a great fit with First Aid Kit, making for an excellent night the whole way through.
Here are some photos of The Weather Station opening First Aid Kit at The Anthem on July 14, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are some photos of First Aid Kit headlining The Anthem on July 14, 2023. All pictures again copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.