Ash Bell – FirstAidKit_Enmore_Sydney_12 (1)
Photo: Ashley Bell

Review: First Aid Kit at The Enmore Theatre, Sydney, 3 April 2018

Having not graced Australia’s shores with their dulcet voices, gentle guitars and perfectly melancholy lyrics since 2015, Swedish folk-rock duo First Aid Kit decided to treat their fans who couldn’t make it all the way to Byron Bay to a local, headline show.

The gorgeous backdrop of Newtown’s Enmore Theatre set the perfect stage for what was expected to be an evening of delicate, acoustic numbers fleshed out with daring two part harmonies. But before Klara and Johanna took the stage, an already three-quarters-full floor was greeted by the tight guitar licks and huge vocal range of Perth native, Stella Donnelly.

She had no issues keeping a packed crowd entertained, and, unusually for an opening act, the bar lines were noticeably empty. Though most songs flew under the radar, there’s no denying the feeling emanating from the 500 or so people who knew every single word to ‘Boys Will Be Boys’.

First Aid Kit made it immediately clear that they were here to defy expectations. Their band, comprised of a drummer, pedal steel/electric guitarist and an extremely Grateful Dead looking keyboard/trombone player, appeared onstage first, bringing with them a wall of industrial noise which would not have been out of place at a Nine Inch Nails or Explosions In The Sky gig.

The ambient noise, however, was quickly replaced with the cheers of the audience as Swedish heartthrobs Klara and Johanna walked onstage, launching directly into ‘Rebel Heart’ from their 2018 release, Ruins.

It took a few songs before an acoustic guitar even appeared onstage. The band, though visually focused on the two songwriters front and centre, made a clear distinction that they have no intention of limiting themselves to the world of acoustic ditties.

Giant keyboard lines, percussive, open handed drumming and a pedal-steel player more than willing to push the usual expectations of his instrument, all played a huge role in First Aid Kit’s move beyond the folk-rock sounds of 2012.

While the audience were clearly mesmerised, it seemed as though many were daunted by the vocal abilities on display, most choosing to watch silently rather than making feeble attempts to sing along. Until of course, Klara introduced ‘King of the World’, and suddenly even the shyest fan was seduced into a blissful singalong. The enthusiasm carried through to the title track of their acclaimed second album, ‘The Lions Roar’.

Taking the opportunity of an indisputably engaged audience, Klara took the opportunity of an attentive room and a microphone to discuss an issue clearly close to her heart; that of consent, rape culture and the need for all of us, gender aside, to be a part of the cultural shift towards change. Launching into a out of character grunge song titled ‘You’re The Problem Here’, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1994, First Aid Kit pulled no punches in getting their point across.

Kicking of the encore with a brave and beautiful cover of Neil Young‘s ‘After the Gold Rush’, as well as an extensive jammed out version of ‘Master Pretender’, and closing with the infectious ‘My Silver Lining’, First Aid Kit showed not only their mastery of acoustic folk and soaring harmonies, but teased the audience with an unexpected range from pop through hard rock and industrial sounds.

All 2,500 people in the Enmore Theatre will undoubtebly be back to see what the sisters have in store next time.

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