All photos taken by Hannah Shorten and are not to be used without permission.
Now the pale morning sings of forgotten things
She plays a tune for those who wish to overlook
The fact that they’ve been blindly deceived
By those who preach and pray and teach
But she falls short and the night explodes in laughter
First Aid Kit are a Swedish folk band comprised of the two Söderberg sisters, Johanna & Klara. With two albums underneath their belt and riding a ever-growing crescendo of critical acclaim, it struck me as they took to the stage just how young these girls are. They are undeniably deserving of their success, they work hard and have done since they started in 2007. Their overwhelming draw stems from the voices which are wondrously clear, pure, and simply beautiful. Their new album ‘The Lion’s Roar‘ is a monumental leap forward from ‘The Big Black and The Blue‘; the traditional folk sound is still present but overcomes the ordinary ‘twee’ limitations that hinder their debut. I must clarify that upon initially hearing ‘The Big Black and The Blue‘, I enjoyed it and the vast resorvoir of talent that the Söderberg sisters posessed was clear, but barely tapped. It was lovely, but unfortunately safe, quaint and, personally, not hugely memorable apart from ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Hard Believer’. Yet my interest was piqued again when I heard their wonderful cover of Fever Ray’s ‘When I Grow Up‘.
This interest was not only cemented but transformed into genuine excitement after catching the girls performance at the Polar Music Prize last year, when they performed a cover of ‘Dancing Barefoot‘ in tribute to Patti Smith who was being honoured for “devoting her life to art in all its forms.” They brought Patti Smith to tears.
So with obvious raised expectations I purchased ‘The Lion’s Roar‘ in January, and, suffice to say, my expectations were not only met but exceeded. Highlights include ‘Emmylou’, ‘To a Poet‘, “King of the World‘ and the title track ‘The Lion’s Roar‘. Yes, their songwriting has immensely improved, assuredly aided by the influence of Conor Oberst, and the increased instrumentals sound beautiful but, personally, I found them somewhat of a distraction from the real attraction; Johanna & Klara’s ability to become human instruments, their voices and the way they use them in creating some of the most perfect harmonies since Simon and Garfunkel.
Supporting First Aid Kit was Oklahoma singer songwriter Samantha Crain. While I always try to catch support acts, they do, unfortunately, sometimes simply serve as a filler, a distraction to pass time until the main event, which, of course, is the reason you’re there. Yet, obviously, they can be a chance to catch fantastic musicians and bands who have not garnered enough popularity whether it be internationally or at all, and will, hopefully, move on to fill the headliner slot given enough time. Samantha Crain is surely the latter. One does not expect such a stunningly powerful voice to come from such a small woman. Without previous knowledge of her songs, the crowd was obviously won over and sorry to see her leave the stage. I, for one, purchased her album ‘You (Understood). She reappeared at the end of the show with news that she had just gotten engaged and performed a marvellous ensemble rendition of ‘The Dam Song’.
Live, the Söderberg sisters have an understated but charming presence. It’s a stripped down performance; Klara on guitar, Johanna on keyboard, aided by a drummer, and to be honest it is all the better for it. From the sombre yet soulful opening, ‘The Old Routine‘, the crowd falls unusually, and thankfully, quiet. Their set list is mainly composed of material from the new album with just a few hits off their debut. Klara takes lead and rightly so, although I am interested to hear more of Johanna’s rich, deeper voice. Overall the gig is wonderful, the most memorable moment being when the girls put down their instruments and stepped out in front of their microphones to deliver a magnificently spine-tingling a capella rendition of ‘Ghost Town‘. Also their performance of ‘The Lion’s Roar’ included possibly the most adorable headbangin’ I’ve ever seen. They finish their set with Samantha Crain in a rousing version of ‘King of the World’. Afterwards the band and Craine were present at the merchandising stands. Although the crowd, myself included, were awe-struck after the gig, all three were unfailingly lovely & charming. Officially now a fan, I cannot wait to see what the Söderberg sisters and Samantha Crain do next.
There has been in Dublin, as well as worldwide, a rise in insurgent political action. All I can say, or will, is about goddamn time.
Students protest against proposed reintroduction of college fees. 15,000 marched through Dublin.
Occupy Dame Street, Dublin.
All photographs taken by Hannah Shorten and are not to be used without permission or credit.
Currently listening to:
First song off the Black Keys forthcoming El Camino album, out December 6th. Such a simple concept for a video but impossible to watch without smiling.
Wonderful song by Elena Tonra a.k.a. Daughter, whose E.P. His Young Heart dropped earlier this year, listen to it here. Beautiful singer with haunting songs that are simultaneously pure and sinister. Listen.
I’d recommend you listen to the following song without watching the video. Seriously. Amazing track and voice, which sounds like your listening to an ol’ school Delta Blues musician with the devil on his coat tails.
Then you watch the video, and realize that voice is coming from such a young man, who is quite a handsome fellow. Matt Corby is his name and his debut album Into the Flame was released this month.
Great band covering a great song from an even greater band, or, The Civil Wars covering ‘Disarm’ from the immeasurable Smashing Pumpkins, and thoroughly making it their own. Magic.