Local Current Blog

Review: First Aid Kit sound lustrous at the Varsity Theater

First Aid Kit at the Varsity Theater in June. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR.

It is not surprising that Minneapolis, the largest city in a state known for its Swedish immigrants, was the first of many First Aid Kit shows to sell out this tour season. Something about the Swedish duo’s Americana sound is clearly appealing, and their show at Dinkytown’s Varsity Theater was packed to the gills with excited fans of all ages. Ladies and gentlemen from their teens to their senior years came to witness one of the first in a long string of U.S. performances promoting the band’s new album, Stay Gold—a lush compilation of soaring harmonies and rich, rippling instrumental arrangements.

Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Willy Mason (who’s been touring and promoting his new album for most of this year) opened the show with a brilliant set. Where many other musicians have fallen short with solo acoustic sets, offering coffee-shop tunes that all sound the same, Mason wove a rich tapestry of original blues, country, and folk compositions that kept the crowd cheering. With strong, clear vocals and brilliant finger-picking, as well as a charming stage presence, Willy’s set perfectly set the stage for First Aid Kit’s bright sound.

Backed by a drummer and a combination of pedal steel, electric guitar, and mandolin, the girls (Johanna and Klara Söderberg) performed a jubilant set, mixing new album singles such as “Stay Gold,” “Cedar Lane,” and “Master Pretender” with old favorites like “Wolf,” “The Lion’s Roar,” “Blue,” and “Emmylou.” In one of the more intimate moments the group treated the audience to an unplugged version of “Ghost Town,” inviting everyone to sing along. Perched precariously on the tip of the stage with just Klara’s guitar, they made eye contact with audience members and the entire theater filled with the sounds of bright voices.

First Aid Kit shows typically offer a unique balance of these quieter moments with brazen theatricality, and with its eclectic vintage glam, the Varisty Theater proved to be the perfect setting. The theme of gold pervaded (the performers, dressed in gold dresses and gold shoes, were illuminated by gold lights and stood in front of an extravagant golden backdrop with twinkling golden lights), so it felt as though King Midas himself had visited the venue. The music was equally lustrous and is sure to please future audiences. After the cathartic group rendition of “Ghost Town,” the Söderberg sisters dove energetically into their popular new single, “Silver Lining.” Featuring an impressive light show and a lot of head-banging, the women offered engaging and brilliant performances that never took themselves too seriously, and showed their impressive musical virtuosity. The audience responded in kind: rapt and attentive during quieter moments, then happily bouncing as the Söderbergs jammed onstage. In short, it was a great show—fun, captivating, with just the right amount of whimsy.

Stay Gold will be released on June 10. You can stream the album in its entirety on the Current’s website and can hear First Aid Kit’s live session with Bill DeVille on Sunday morning, June 8, at 9:05 a.m.

Mallory Guinee is a blogger, a harpist, and a French major at Carleton College. She loves traveling, long chats over tea, and listening to great music while lying on the living room floor.

  • GoldyTheGreat

    Is Minneapolis the capilal of MN?