Live Review: First Aid Kit plays slow set, ends with a bash

Johanna Söderberg performs with First Aid Kit.

The Waiting Room Lounge had a packed house last night, especially considering it was a Monday night and the perfomers were a little-known Swedish folk duo.

Of course, First Aid Kit is known a little better around these parts because they recorded their sophomore album, “The Lion’s Roar,” here in Omaha at ARC. Still, I was surprised at the large crowd in the small club.

Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, who produced the album, sat in on nearly the entire set. Mogis, who  Klara Söderberg called him “the man, the myth, the legend,” played pedal steel and mandolin on most songs. His playing shaped many of the tunes, which made me wonder what the band does when he’s not there. The songs would simply sound empty.

The Söderberg sisters played 16 songs, including all of its new album, a couple of covers and a couple of old songs.

They blew me away with their entirely unplugged performance of “Ghost Town,” which came in the middle of the set. They asked if they could do away with all the technology and stepped to the front of the Waiting Room stage.

It was the quietest I’ve ever seen the small club. The audience was mostly in reverent silence, but some (as invited by the band) softly sang along. It was pretty.

It was a pure performance moment and one of a few like it that I’ve seen here.

“We are super-thrilled to play in Omaha,” Klara said. “We had an amazing time and this place will always be special to us.”

The duo took much of the night slowly, as most of its songs are of a slower tempo. First Aid Kit’s sound is more like classic country than most anything I’ve heard in awhile outside of The Civil Wars. The sisters’ vocal harmonies are incredible, too, and will draw comparisons to, again, The Civil Wars as well as The Watson Twins and Fleet Foxes (where First Aid Kit got recognized).

Fans yelled “You guys rock” and cheered like crazy people. They sang along, as asked (once again), during “Emmylou,” which made for a very pretty moment.

Another great moment was the band’s cover of Paul Simon’s “America,” which they sang recently at the Polar Music Prize. Again, there was reverent silence for the duo as they moved through the song.

Dylan LeBlanc opened the show. Many in the crowd enjoyed him, but I found his voice really throaty, like he couldn’t hit the notes. His best performance was a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” where he abandoned the throaty singing and went into it with a raw, emotional take. Much better.

During the encore, First Aid Kit was joined by Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds as well as LeBlanc to sing the set-closing “King of the World” (also my favorite song by the band). Coupled with the previous tune, “Sailor Song,” it was an energetic way to close the mostly (so-far) quiet show.

During “King of the World,” Burhenn took the second verse (with some lyrics written on her hand… she did great) and LeBlanc did the Conor Oberst verse (Oberst didn’t show, though I thought it was possible).

The band stuck around to sign autographs. The crowd, seriously about 75 people (a staggering amount of people), stuck around, too.

 

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