The Apollo Theatre is a tough place to find if you live in the depths of South Manchester. As a Didsbury man, the journey left me perplexed as to where the venue was. Having lived in Manchester for 2 and a half years, it remained the only venue in the city that I was yet to step foot in. This gig was a first in another sense, it being the first gig that I can recall, where I sat up on the balcony looking down on stage. I mean it is a theatre. As I took my seat, I wasn’t sure if I was at a gig or at the tour of the Bolshoi ballet. The crowd wrapped up in an intense focus; packed like sardines unsure whether those below are on their haunches or stood.
Lola Kirke is first up, an artist with an aura of the nostalgic golden era of pop and the deep soundscapes of Americana. Lola, accompanied with steel guitar and drums, unleashed a warm raspy vocal in an amazing chemistry with her band, making her the perfect act to support First Aid Kit. Even from up on the balcony, Lola’s intense vocal delivery is something great to behold. In addition, her attire was, as a match, unique and stylish and was certainly approved by the crowd. As noted by the woman who sat beside me “She definitely is a boss”.
The Soderberg sisters, Klara and Johanna, come to the stage in outfits just as outlandish as the soundscapes they portray in their music. Johanna is in a sparkly jumpsuit with flares cut off at the bottoms whilst Klara channels a 70s suit crossed between Elvis and Evil Knievel, both of whom were rebellious trendsetters. The set kicks off with ‘Outta My Head’ the lead single on Palomino, a performance that oozes energy and heart. The set takes more of a personal turn on the introduction to “Wild Horses II” a so-called song about a song.
What version do you prefer Klara sings : The Rolling Stones or Gram’s [Gram Parsons]. The harmonies prove to be the epicentre of First Aid Kit’s attraction. It is a warm feeling that is certainly heart-rendering. The 70s style of the sisters felt like a nice touch to the presence of strong women who have influenced the act for a number of years, Karen Carpenter and Fleetwood Mac being two notable influences (The gig was taking place the night that Christine McVie had just passed away RIP).
The sisters’ have a strong rapport with the audience which has led to them accumulating almost universal appraisal and made them one of the biggest acts around. This could not be summed better than the heckling voice of a middle-aged man “What did you have for breakfast? to which the sisters reply humbly “Eggs Benedict!”. Just like eggs benedict, this performance was glazed over with a rich layer of comfort, something that has come to define who First Aid Kit are as an act today.
The finale to First Aid Kit was an explosive affair ending in confetti cannons of blue and white and a sea of people enticed by such an energetic display on My Silver Lining, this the perfect mood-lifter to what had been, before the gig, quite a bleak Wednesday. The moods were lifted even more to the playing of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’. Insteading of getting people into the groove, it was designed to keep them in it as they go out into the moonlit night.
First Aid Kit have brought joy to Manchester on a bleak Wednesday night with a performance as moving and wondrous as a lunar ecllipse. An event so rare but just as special to experience. The Soderberg sisters demonstrate their ability to capture positivity in a performance laced together with good vibes and enigmatic flows of rhythm. First Aid Kit have done more than enough to now establish themselves as heavyweights in the modern folk genre.