Live Review: First Aid Kit, O2 Academy Leeds, 8th Nov 2018

FAK

Photo by Darren Hughes

Some things in life seem like a match made in heaven. A perfect pairing, greater together than the sum of their parts. I’ve always maintained that First Aid Kit and The Staves would be just such a combination if they ever got together. On paper it just makes so much sense; two groups of sisters famed for their flawless harmonies. In practice however I’d long since dismissed the idea as wishful thinking, a kind of “ultimate supergroup” daydream. So when First Aid Kit announced the tour accompanying their latest record Ruins with The Staves as their support act, it took me all of ten milliseconds to decide that I needed to be a part of it.

I’d already seen The Staves live twice prior, and let me tell you they just get better every time. Their first track was entirely acapella; when else in your life do you get to witness three people walk onto the stage in a crowded room and create such beauty with just their voices that everyone falls silent and hangs on their every word. Though the trio had expanded their sound and explored other arrangements since last I saw them, like the sinister bluesy feel of ‘Tired As Fuck’, their harmonies are still second to none and star of the show. Something about their voices coming together so perfectly, paired with the traditional English folk feel to so many of their tracks, makes it seem like there’s some ancient magic at work. As though the gig is just tapping into a song that has echoed over the hills for an age.

I had expected much of the same feel for First Aid Kit’s set, and yet while there was plenty of beauty to be found in their music I was surprised at how much spectacle there was to their performance. The lights were on par with some of the best I’ve seen, and it was clear to see there was a lot of love and camaraderie between the sisters and their band, as they regularly had impromptu jams with them and introduced them in a brilliant “dating gameshow” style. ‘The Lion’s Roar’ held a special place within the set. With the stage billowing out an enormous plume of smoke giving it a dark and mystical feel, the band really went for it and injected such raw energy into the track that I’d never heard before. They even veered into full-blown alt rock territory for ‘You Are The Problem Here’. Their music has always been able to rise and fall like the tide, but seeing them live you also get to see them perform with all the vigour of waves crashing upon the shore.

The latter half of their set saw my supergroup daydream come to life as Klara and Johanna brought The Staves back onstage to harmonise with them. Though the song itself that they chose wasn’t the best, you could have those voices ring out together while reading the phone book and it would still be absolute bliss. The stripped back feel continued into ‘Hem of Her Dress’ which had everyone singing along with reckless abandon like it was a traditional pub song or an old sea shanty to get everyone in high spirits. After what felt like the longest encore pause of my life, they finished the night, the final stop of the tour, with a handful of fan favourites. I was simply spellbound by one group of sisters or another all night; just as much of a winning combination as I’d hoped. And while First Aid Kit were on my list of “bands I need to see” for a very long time, they’ve now jumped straight over to the list of “bands I need to see again”.

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