First Aid Kit had a breakthrough in 2014 with their major label album Stay Gold. Four years later they have returned with their much-anticipated follow-up, and fourth studio album, Ruins. The album finds sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg mining much of the same sonic palette as their earlier releases, built around rootsy folk rock and stunning harmonies. Ruins is a somewhat conservative album that looks in the rearview mirror almost as much as it looks ahead, but it is a more than satisfying synthesis of First Aid Kit’s musical lineage that has been garnering positive attention. First Aid Kit have been touring behind the album, and recently announced a short run of North American shows this summer around their appearance at Bonnaroo before heading to Europe for the summer and returning for more North American dates in the fall. We caught the current run of dates when it kicked off at a sold-out North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.
The Friday evening crowd was met with clear skies and a break in the heat and humidity as 20-year-old British singer-songwriter Jade Bird took the stage to start off the evening. Bird, who has been named a “country artist you need to know” by Rolling Stone Magazine, played a well-received set of soul-baring songs from her debut EP, Something American, that blended old-school country and honky-tonk with blues and soul. Bird held the audience in the palm of her hand with powerful sultry vocals and her engaging personality.
With the sun having fully set, First Aid Kit emerged to rapturous applause. Johanna and Klara Söderberg, backed by a trio of mult-talented instrumentalists, opened with “Rebel Heart,” followed by “It’s a Shame,” the two songs that open their latest album Ruins. From there, they reached back to 2012’s The Lion’s Roar for the spirited “King Of The World.” The band locked in and found a groove almost immediately, providing a tight base for Klara and Johanna’s soaring vocal harmonies. The stage set was deceptively simple, with a plain white backdrop behind the band. However, when it fit the songs the stage was bathed in color from a high-end lighting system, and the backdrop acted as a projection screen displaying animated graphics and films of vintage country roads and desert landscapes. Johanna tended to cut loose a bit more and roamed freely around the stage while Klara remained more grounded as she often carried the lead vocals, including a fiery and furious “You Are the Problem Here,” that seemed to take an emotional toll as Klara channeled the anger of every woman who has faced sexual harassment or assault.
Not everything was dark and emotional, there was plenty of fun to be had as well, highlighted by an absolutely spot-on cover of Heart’s “Crazy On You,” which allowed everyone the opportunity to cut loose. While the crowd embraced each of First Aid Kit’s songs, the reception reached an energetic apex with “Emmylou,” which evolved into a massive sing-along before the band closed out with “Nothing Has To Be True.” Neither the band nor the crowd were ready to call it a night, and Johanna and Klara returned for a 3 song encore that started with “Hem of Her Dress,” and included “Master Pretender,” before sending everyone home with “My Silver Lining.” First Aid Kit delivered an emotional performance that was captivating, charming, and exceeded all expectations.
First Aid Kit + Jade Bird @ NC Museum of Art – June 8th 2018