First Aid Kit at The Paradise

Matthew Shelter on July 1, 2014

First Aid Kit

Paradise Rock Club

Boston, Mass.

June 8

Hailing from a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit may be the most unlikely of ambassadors to the Americana revival that has swept the indie folk world in recent years. But the muse knows no borders, and along with other talented duos such as The Civil Wars, Milk Carton Kids, The Belle Brigade and Jamestown Revival, the sisters Söderberg have reinvented and reinvigorated the classic sounds of their American idols – legendary artists like Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and Simon & Garfunkel.

First Aid Kit played a sold-out show at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club recently, just days before the release of their third album, Stay Gold. The sisters appeared on stage in front of a sparkling gold backdrop, clad in dresses that also sparkled under the house lights, to a warm welcome from a crowd of close to 1,000 that spanned an uncommonly wide age range, from young college-age fans to greying baby boomers.

Although Stay Gold had not officially dropped yet, the duo played seven of the new album’s ten songs over the course of the evening, including opening with “Shattered & Hollowed” and closing with the album’s title track. The rest of the 16-song set list was filled predominantly with tracks from 2012’s critically-acclaimed The Lion’s Roar.

The new album fits easily alongside that earlier disk. Among the new songs that were especially good live were “Waitress Song,” “Heaven Knows,” “Cedar Lane” and “Master Pretender” – the last of which, Klara Söderberg noted from the stage with an impish grin, is the first track of theirs to be slapped with a warning for “Explicit” content (“…shit gets fucked up,” if you were wondering). “Heaven Knows” is a rollicking rockabilly number, while “Cedar Lane” returns First Aid Kit as close as can be to their Gram Parsons-inspired roots, and featured some prominent pedal steel guitar work by Melvin Duffy at the Boston show.

Midway through the set, Johanna (she’s the blonde sister and plays keyboards) and Klara (the auburn-haired guitarist) stepped from behind their mics and stood at the edge of the stage for an unplugged, acoustic version of “Ghost Town,” before plugging back in to deliver a stunning cover of “One More Cup of Coffee,” a deep cut off of the mid-1970’s era Dylan album Desire. Other high points included “Wolf,” which raced along atop the jungle beat of Niclas Lindstrom’s percussion, and a show-stopping “The Lion’s Roar,” with both sisters wildly flipping their long tresses in true rock-star fashion.

For an encore, they saluted Paul Simon – whom they referred to as a musical “genius” – with their traditional cover of his 1968 classic “America,” and paid homage to their other main influences with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Emmylou,” perhaps the defining tune of their impressive young songbook. “I’ll be your Emmylou, and I’ll be your June/If you’ll be my Gram, and my Johnny too.”