First Aid Kit @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (14/03/2012)

Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit have definitely made a name for themselves in Australia. Word must have spread since their rapturously received 2010 tour, because this time around they’ve managed to pack out venues more than twice the size. It probably hasn’t hurt that they’re riding on the back of a Golden Plains appearance, as well as a solid amount of triple j airplay.

There’s something very un-folky about a room packed with bodies jostling for prime position. But with the Corner Hotel well and truly sold out, and with a collection of very keen punters, that’s exactly what First Aid Kit were greeted by. However, as the red curtain parted and the band crept into opener This Old Routine, everybody suddenly settled. The sweet, woodsy folk of the sisterly duo was immediately captivating. There’s a natural, grounded quality to their music that shines through – even more so in the live environment – giving the songs a really honest feel. The sisterly connection between Johanna and Klara Sí¶derberg also allows them to put on a performance far more cohesive than their youth would seem to allow. Their vocal harmonies were just breathtaking, with the two moving so perfectly alongside each other that it took a while to work out who was actually singing which part.

Blue provided another highlight early on, as did the gorgeous tribute to country idols Emmylou. While the band’s instrumental work and unexpectedly active stage presence were both fantastic, it was again the flawless vocal harmonies which stole the show. It certainly didn’t hurt that the mix was perfect all night, and the minimal light show kept the crowd’s focus very much on what was coming out of the speakers.

The crowd couldn’t seem to get enough. There was near silence and awestruck looks during each song, and rapturous applause between. The band seemed legitimately thrilled with their reception, thanking everybody for coming out again and again. They even capitalised on everybody’s attentiveness with an unplugged performance, offering up a gorgeously raw and stripped-back version of Ghost Town. While this was fantastic, the Corner’s air conditioning system was a bit of a distraction, even from right up the front of the room. It was a powerful and intimate moment for a few of us, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for those elsewhere in the room.

An unexpected cover of fellow Fever Ray’s When I Grow Up followed, offering up something different from the rest of the setlist and going over just as nicely. As the tail end of the set approached, the band seemed to throw themselves even more heavily into the performance. I really didn’t expect to see metal-style headbanging and hair-flicks at this show, least of all from the band themselves, but it seemed weirdly appropriate, if only for the purpose of reinforcing Swedish stereotypes. After letting things build for a couple of songs, the band finished off with recent single The Lion’s Roar. The clearly familiar crowd were at their most energetic, singing and dancing along as enthusiastically as the band themselves. It was an appropriately triumphant conclusion.

The evening ended with a cool-down style encore. The gorgeously stripped-back Our Own Pretty Ways quickly restored calm to the room, while King of the World picked things up a little and even inspired a crowd led clap-along. It was a sweet note to end on, leaving a very good taste in the mouths of those who got to experience it.