First Aid Kit review: Sisters are doing it for themselves

The Swedish folk duo’s Rebel Heart Tour hits all the right notes


First Aid Kit with The Staves / Corn Exchange, 3rd November

It goes without saying that we live in a world stricken by conflict. In the hour before the show began, I saw people having bottles thrown at them in the street, overheard some (frankly hilarious) arguments about the service at the Corn Exchange bar, and dealt with the obligatory scramble for a good spot in the standing area which produced this amazing death stare:

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Plotting his revenge against the people who pushed in front of us

On the face of it, then, a band called First Aid Kit sounds like exactly the sort of healing stuff we need right now. And if you'd ever doubted the power of music to bring people together, last night's concert-come-religous-experience would have made you a firm believer.

Sister trio The Staves were the perfect choice to open, with a set showcasing their phenomenal musicianship – far more enchanting in the flesh than on record – and their hilarious, acerbic wit. "Tired As Fuck" should be the go-to anthem of every Cambridge student by this point in term.

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Sisters do it better: First Aid Kit are joined by The Staves for a haunting rendition of Lykke Li's "Hard Rain"

The show was running later than advertised, so anticipation was at a high by the time First Aid Kit finally took to the stage, returning to Cambridge after playing the Folk Festival back in August. It's safe to say that they were worth the wait.

Opening with "Distant Star", from their recent LP Ruins, they dug deep into their catalogue to showcase songs from their last three albums. The only glaring omissions were "To Live A Life" – a phenomenal Ruins cut – as well as material from their 2010 debut, The Big Black and the Blue. But the surprise inclusion of "I've Wanted You", from the band's new Tender Offerings EP, more than made up for it in its achingly beautiful simplicity.

The stunning lighting and video backdrops never threatened to overpower the music. Seamlessly integrated with the action on stage, they made everything even more impressive, particularly the turbocharged arrangements of more uptempo numbers like "Wolf" and "Rebel Heart".

A special mention needs to go to Steve Moore, the band's keyboardist and one-man interpretive dance show whose instantly iconic moves threatened to steal the spotlight from the Söderberg sisters' (impeccable) vocals on more than one occasion.

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First Aid Kit performing "King of the World"

What really made the show so memorable, though, was just how intimate it was. The Corn Exchange is hardly the world's biggest venue, but even so, the sisters' personalities really shone in the moments of crowd interaction. Whether dropping appropriately corn-themed jokes, conducting a "big drunken choir" of fans, or delivering impassioned, political speeches, Klara and Johanna made the audience experience every emotion you could think of.

The feeling was magical: a room full of strangers brought together for a few hours, sharing in the magic and singing every word. In fact, I'd challenge anyone who'd call country or folk music "boring" to see First Aid Kit and not be moved.

Truly, this was a display of the art of songwriting and performance at its finest. "It's A Shame" that it was over all too soon.

5/5 stars