First Aid Kit at South Facing Festival
It’s surprising to think that Swedish band First Aid Kit first performed in London over 15 years ago. The siblings’ Southern meets Stockholm sound, combining lush harmonies and Americana inspiration, has been making waves for essentially half of their lives. Five albums later, the folk duo headline Crystal Palace’s South Facing Festival, proving they are still just as magnetic, with their vocal synchronisation stronger and slicker than ever before.
The multi-series festival opens its penultimate night with a fitting range of acts: new group 86TVs (comprised of rock veterans The Maccabees and Stereophonics), Flyte and CMAT. There’s a remarkably calm, polite atmosphere filled with picnic mats. The Great British rain even manages to hold off as sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg grace the stage with their band, the dusk skies providing a dramatic backdrop for the set.
Delivering soothing, silky smooth harmonies, the sisters lead on guitars as part of a five-piece band – complete with an accordion – but it’s the songwriting and vocals that naturally take centre stage. It’s a melodic masterclass: a powerful and satisfying blend of Klara’s soaring, ethereal tone with Johanna’s huskier, rockier one. Having recently released album Palomino and its deluxe version weeks earlier, it’s no surprise that this record is the evening’s main score. Opening with Angel, a hopeful, ABBA-meets-Fleetwood Mac number, the accompanying equine visuals add to the theme of feeling hopeful and free – perfect for a summer festival. This continues throughout anthemic tracks like Child of Summer and Everybody’s Got to Learn, a poignant dedication to Johanna’s child.
There are further dedications spanning an even greater range, from an upbeat cover of On the Road Again, a tribute to tour life on the road, to timeless love song Emmylou about songwriting partnerships, complete with a touching crowd chorus. The pair, known for making deeply personal music, don’t shy away from sadness either, for example on Firework and It’s a Shame. Some are wistful, others softly romantic enough to even walk down the aisle to. The most magical moment belongs to a stripped-back rendition of Ghost Town, repurposed as an ode to how far they’ve come from their initial “nights in Travelodge”. For an outdoor London audience of thousands, pin-drop quiet is an impressive feat.
From the crowd-pleasing, foot-stamping conclusion of mighty hit My Silver Lining to the swaying festival-friendly Hem of Her Dress, there’s something for everyone and it’s reliably delivered in perfect harmony. Walking off stage to the sound of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, it’s a reminder of how First Aid Kit belong in the league of Sweden’s finest musical exports.
Photos: Nick Bennett
Watch the video for the single Palomino here: