Concert review: First Aid Kit at Highland Brewing Co.
A capacity crowd turned out to see First Aid Kit at Highland Brewing Co. on Friday, Sept. 14, and enjoy a cool summer evening while trying not to think about the potential onslaught of Hurricane Florence that lay ahead.
Providing welcome real-world amnesia, the evening began with smooth solo electric strumming and vocals from Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin, whom the headliners would later admit to listening to obsessively for a year and a half and how having her on tour with them was a dream come true. Between songs in her chill, short, Julien Baker-esque set that neither roused attendees nor lulled them into complacency, Jacklin offered commentary on the flying insects in North Carolina versus her native land, then calmly exited to make way for the main attraction.
Within minutes of opener “Distant Star,” Johanna & Klara Söderberg appeared in-sync and committed to delivering their best show possible, displaying an elite onstage chemistry that one might expect from sisters with nearly a decade of touring experience. Apologizing for not playing in Asheville since October 2014 at The Orange Peel, a venue they once identified as one of their favorites, the Swedes atoned for their four-year hiatus with an expanded five-piece sound that nicely filled the brewery’s Meadow space.
Backed by eye-catching rear projection of Monument Valley, cityscapes, outer space and montages of photos from the band’s various tours and studio sessions, First Aid Kit hopped between selections from The Lion’s Roar, Stay Gold and 2018 release Ruins, offering synchronized hair flips that were occasionally joined by the band’s reggae Chris Robinson-looking keyboardist.
Directly following the beauty of “The Lion’s Roar,” self-described mid-set punk anthem “You Are the Problem Here” prompted Klara to speak out about rape victims, an issue about which she’s clearly passionate, and rightly put the onus on men to consider their actions and allow women to feel safe being on their own. Her sentiments were, thankfully, met with vigorous applause and cheers from both sexes.
The show also coincided with the release of First Aid Kit’s new Tender Offerings EP, from which they played a track before moving on to more familiar offerings. Though lacking much tempo variance in the selections and missing a slow gut-punch like Stay Gold standout “Cedar Lane,” the setlist’s flow carried a pleasant sonic monotony of sorts, building to breakout hit “Emmylou,” a chorus round of which the Söderbergs let the audience handle, producing surprisingly gorgeous results from the amateur attendees.
A breezy encore of Ruins’ “Rebel Heart” and “Fireworks” then gave way to Stay Gold’s upbeat hit single “My Silver Lining,” a more fitting choice to close out the night than “Emmylou,” which multiple concertgoers guessed might be the finale. As the sisters took their bows with their bandmates and departed, the sense of accomplishment was palpable, as was the likelihood that the next time they play in Asheville, it’ll likely be in an even larger venue and carry an inflated ticket price. If the band keeps going the way it’s going, both changes will be warranted — but hopefully another Olympic and election cycle won’t elapse before the opportunity arises.
(Photo: Sony Music)