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Live Review: First Aid Kit – 12th August 2023 – South Facing Festival, Crystal Palace Bowl, London, UK

3 min read
Photo: Lauren Dukoff/Columbia Records Publicity

After a string of summer shows throughout the US and Sweden, Swedish indie folk duo First Aid Kit took the stage at Crystal Palace Bowl for a captivating performance as part of London’s South Facing Festival. The outfit is comprised of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, with this show marking the beginning of their UK and EU tour. The dates follow their fifth studio album Palomino released in 2022, and Palomino Deluxe (Child of Summer Edition) released just last month.

As night began to fall on a blustery Saturday evening, the busy field of attendees closed in around the stage after supporting sets from CMAT, FLYTE and 86TV’s. Steely Dan’s Dirty Work played over the speakers in the lead-up to showtime, fading out as blue light fell over the stage. The crowd began to cheer as Super 8 footage from the duo’s Angel music video played as a backdrop and the sound of soft keys and guitar trickled out. Accompanying band members Johannes Runemark (guitar/mandolin), Freja Drakenberg (keyboard) and Scott Simpson (drums) were the first to emerge, followed by Johanna and Klara. They opened with Angel taken from their newest album. The reception among fans was clearly positive as the audience joined the duo in an eager sing-along with croons of “Give me love and give me compassion, self-forgiveness and give me some passion. I’ll love you, even if you don’t love me,” that seemed to come straight from the heart. Ending with a shrill cry of “LONDON!”, the excitement of First Aid Kit’s return to the city carried across Crystal Palace.

Johanna and Klara glistened in blue-sequined ensembles, mirroring the backdrop of sunlight bouncing across ocean waves during 2018 track It’s A Shame. Their mesmerising harmonies were nestled in country tones that were stripped down to the folky wild woman sound of Wolf, for which the crowd joined with chants of “hey ya, hey ya!”. Taking a break from their earlier catalogue to return to Palomino, Johanna gave a heartfelt introduction to Everybody’s Got To Learn as she dedicated the song to her three-year old daughter. In addition to pouring out emotion by this point, the sisters fell into a run of pure energy. Klara traded out her trusty acoustic guitar for a vibrant electric number in Rebel Heart and played her way down to the stage floor in The Lion’s Roar.

Taking centre stage while the band stepped away, the sisters thanked the audience and reminisced on all that they have been through as artists with Ghost Town, taken from their first record. As delicate acoustic strums were paired with the duo’s radiant vocals, the crowd fell silent – only cheering for a lyric change to “London window view”. They encouraged the audience to join in for Hem Of Her Dress with a “la la la” melody as the band returned to the stage; Johannes on mandolin, Freja on accordion and Scott on drums and tambourine. This moment felt like the soul of the show as attendees sang along, swaying and waving their hands to the sky. Deviating from their own discography, Johanna and Klara took the opportunity to introduce their band with a cover of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. As if the night couldn’t get any more wholesome, a montage of tour footage was displayed throughout the song.

After a run of fifteen songs, First Aid Kit left the stage to later return with an outfit change and an encore. Even though the show was nearing its end, the audience jumped and sang through the new tracks and closing fan favourite My Silver Lining. First Aid Kit brought an overall feel-good performance to Crystal Park. While much of the lyrical content brushed on heartache and introspection, the duo conveyed these themes wrapped up in an impassioned and near-cathartic show. As attendees shuffled out of the field while ABBA’s Dancing Queen played out, spirits were high. Through timeless country-folk instrumentation and high-flying harmonies, First Aid Kit has found a way to heal.

Setlist:
Angel
It’s A Shame
Wolf
Stay Gold
Everybody’s Got To Learn
Rebel Heart
The Lion’s Roar
Child Of Summer
Ghost Town
Hem Of Her Dress
King Of The World
On The Road Again (Willie Nelson cover)
Emmylou
A Feeling That Never Came
Fireworks

Encore:
Out Of My Head
Palomino
My Silver Lining