Monday, 22 September 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #32

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#32: First Aid Kit
Colston Hall, Bristol - 19 September 2014
Support: Jo Rose
Also in attendance: MrsRobster & TheMadster

Expectation can often lead to disappointment; you know, when you want something so much, you get it and it's a bit of a let down. In recent times, I don't think I've wanted to see a band more than I've wanted to see First Aid Kit. Then, on Friday night, it finally happened...

That anticipation was tempered a little by the fact that I knew little about the venue, Bristol's Colston Hall. I'd never been there before, but knew we were in a seated area in the balcony - not my thing at all, I like to be in amongst the audience looking up at the band. However, the Colston Hall is a wonderful place. Small and well laid out, in spite of our position the view of the stage was generally pretty good (when I put my glasses on, anyway). And most spectacular of all were the acoustics (more of that later...)

Support act Jo Rose, former frontman of Fear Of Music, played songs from his debut solo record accompanied only by acoustic guitar. While the Colston Hall's sound allowed this sparseness to ring out, his songs were sadly lacking; I'd pretty much forgotten each one before he'd even finished playing it.

I'd prepared myself for a little disappointment. The anticipation of seeing Johanna and Klara Söderberg was so high, I tried to reign myself in a little. I needn't have done so. They were phenomenal. From the opener Stay Gold, those harmonies - oh those harmonies! - soared majestically through the hall and for the first time that evening I almost lost it. While some shows I've been to have had a profound effect on me, none of them have brought me to the verge of tears like this did. Three of four times that night I was actually welling up. I muttered "wow!" to myself as I did what I always do and fight back any emotion so as to not let anyone see how I really felt.

First Aid Kit at Colston Hall, Bristol 19/9/2014
You see, there is just something special about First Aid Kit. From the first time I heard one of their songs played on 6Music, I thought 'Hello, here's something I could really love!'. That happens all too rarely. I can't really put my finger on it exactly, but while First Aid Kit clearly have the songs, the sound and the look, they definitely have something else that transcends them from being a mere pop duo. It might well be those harmonies - oh those harmonies! - they were absolutely spot on. On record, First Aid Kit are delightful; live they are truly breathtaking. About halfway through the set, they stepped away from the mics and performed Ghost Town[1] completely unplugged. It was spine-tingling, it really was, and this is where the Colston Hall's acoustics could really be appreciated. Even from where we were, every single note, every whisper, every breath could be heard.

The majority of the set was made up of songs from First Aid Kit's two most recent albums, the exceptions being the aforementioned Ghost Town and a cover of Jack White's Love Interruption. Needless to say, TheMadster was made up by this inclusion! For the most part Klara played acoustic guitar, Johanna played keyboards and their 'band' consisted of a Swedish drummer and an English multi-instrumentalist who mainly played pedal-steel or electric guitar. They don't believe in overdoing it - they don't need to.

First Aid Kit rates as one of my all-time top 5 live shows without a shadow of doubt. I reckon if there is such a place as Heaven and there are such things as angels, when you get there you'll hear First Aid Kit. Ending their encore with a beautiful and stirring rendition of Emmylou made the evening complete. Those tears rose to the surface again and I just about succeeded in fighting them back. Must have been those harmonies - oh those harmonies!


    [1] No, not the Specials classic, but a single from their first full-length album, 2010's 'The Big Black And The Blue'.


    1. Sounds a pretty special gig. It is rare to get such good acoustics. Those in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall were also excellent when I saw Lucinda Williams and Richard Thompson there

    2. Now I'm gutted. I live in Bath but decided not to go to this concert because I am not really a fan of Colston Hall. Big mistake on my part by the sounds of it.