First Aid Kit at the Royale

Climbing the many flights of stairs, the crowds passed bronze angel statues and when we reached the stage it was small, intimate, and ethereal. Moulin Rouge-esque lounges were up above and a large reflective floor was below – it was empty at first, but a little girl soon used it as a dance floor. Over the speakers they were playing The Head and the Heart, Joni Mitchell, and Wilco, which set the mood and made sure it was going to be a great night.

The sweet young Swedish sisters recently released their latest album, The Lion’s Roar, and everyone was hoping they would play some of the key songs tonight. That night they were releasing the deluxe edition of the record with some new songs not on the original, a documentary, and a custom guitar pick.

Dylan LeBlanc opened wearing the same bowler hat he is on his album cover. He was quiet, with his long dark hair and acoustic guitar. His vocals were clean and rose into a melodious whine. He made a great lonesome male counterpart to the girls. The pauses for the mandolin were bathed in low light and as Dylan jumped in with his rough “oohs” the lights come back. He was loose, telling us that last time he was in Boston, playing with Lucinda Williams, he got into a fight with his base player in a hotel adding that he “wouldn’t f**k with a Boston person.”

Everything got quiet and dark; there were no lights as we waited. Music with low vibrating beats played as the white lights rose and fell. The sisters definitely knew how to make an entrance as they danced onstage in matching long sheer dresses with flowing sleeves. They launched right in with “In the Morning”, each taking a side of the stage and starting off strong with a great a cappella harmony. As they sang “in the oceans where you lay/where you’ve made your grave/ they’ll find you on the shore/rosy no more,” they were lit from below. From there they went into a song from their new CD, “Blue”. Klara, short with brown hair and bangs, took the lead at first with wispy blonde Johanna joining in as they sing “the stranger in the mirror, oh, that’s you.” They ended with a few chimes of a bell in the dark. They echoed their thank you’s and their drummer introduced himself as “Matt the cat”.

They dedicated their next song — which is about their non-religious beliefs — to Richard Dawkins. “Hard Believer” is beautiful, consisting of undulating low harmonies when they sing “I just live because I love to/ and that’s enough you see.” We could all feel that, Johanna put her hands over her heart and the sisters sang slowly and passionately, their long hair swaying side to side. Johanna’s part of the harmony was wavering and low and she added a beautiful piano solo.

Klara stepped up with a smile saying they’d like to dedicate their next song to Pussy Riot and freedom of speech. “Pretty Ways” is fast and the girls sing it with furrowed brows. They tell us “even the most peaceful town/once was a battle ground”. The song gets progressively louder and they lean into it with passion. In the end they thank us in Swedish, “tack”.

Next they swing into a song from the deluxe record, “Maryanne’s Song”. Klara leads again, eyes closed, saying that this is the most tragic song they’ve ever written. “You wait for a sign/but you’re just killing time/ and it’s killing you”, the song is tragic but it is somehow comforting. While they sing that this is only a song, it is the nicest tragedy I’ve ever been sung.

They quickly play “New Years” with just the girl’s voices and a handheld harp. This song was very emotional for Klara, she clasped her hands together and closed her eyes. The highlight of the show came next as they said “screw technology” and left their microphones to sing at the edge of the stage. The whole theater grew quiet and as they urged us, we slowly joined in in singing “Ghost Town”. Klara changed the lyrics from “Dream of Paris in the morning and a New York window view” to a “Boston window view”. They paused on the last chorus and Johanna said “alright sing it Boston” and we did — it was so intimate and utterly gorgeous.

They stepped back behind the microphones for “To a Poet”, Johanna’s blond hair swinging forward and back, their high voices blending together with well times piano chords. They both danced with their long hair flashing in the lights, giving great breaks to harmonies. They jumped right in to a personal favorite of mine “Wolf”, a bonus on the deluxe edition. The song is primal and tribal, everyone was swaying to this one. “Let me see you run” they said to fast drum beats and they yelled together, stepping away from their microphones and leaning forward for the ending.

Fever Ray’s song “When I Grow Up” was next, Klara adding that she is “one of the coolest women we know”. It is a perfect song for the girls, their voices recreating it beautifully, Johanna singing that they will “live by the sea, crab claws and bottles of rum”. They press their pink and red lips into the next one which is the much loved “Emmylou”, a “little love song about singing”. The crowd sang along and they smiled at the end, “beautiful” Klara said.

“I Met Up With the King” was next, the first First Aid Kit song I heard and it was fantastic live, their slow guitar picking led up to the crash into the chorus making it all the more powerful. The lights dimmed and for “Lion’s Roar” they started out as silhouettes. Even the drummer sang for this song, the lights were red and between the three there was long hair everywhere. The song was exactly like it’s name, guttural and powerful. They raised their hands together as they paused and brought it back with crashing drums.

The girls smiled as they left before the encore, already ready to come back and when they floated back in they thanked “the crazy sweet people of Boston”. They played Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” and “Sailor Song”. Everyone was grinning and clapping, hoping they would sing all night.

When it was over, everyone rushed to the merchandise table. Their t-shirt was designed with the two girls sketched to look like a queen playing card. It was fitting as they were, and certainly are, queens.

By Sofia Drummond-Moore
Photos by Alex Lau

If you liked this, check out:
Grizzly Bear at the Orpheum Theater
Jack White at Agganis Arena

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