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Re: First Aid Kit and The Weather Station, The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023

First Aid Kit and The Weather Station, The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023
July 17, 2023 10:03PM
First Aid Kit and the Weather Station
The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023

I’m pretty frugal, it’s true, but not a legendary cheapskate or anything. But for reasons both prosaic and obscure, I’ve never paid for a ticket to a show at the Anthem, Seth Hurwitz’s grandiose temple to live music on the Southeast Washington Wharf. I resent the Anthem for pushing up the prices of live music in DC, as I.M.P. Productions shuffled the bands who would have played at the 9:30 Club or the Lincoln Theatre to the Anthem, where they charge $10 or $15 more per ticket. Plus, the Anthem is really inconvenient by transportation and darned far away to bike.

When a neighbor offered up a ticket to First Aid Kit on Friday night, however, I snapped it up: I like First Aid Kit, no doubt, but I really love the Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman’s ruminative folk-jazz ensemble, whose Ignorance was one of my favorite records in 2021. There was one complication. I had just had a minor medical procedure and was on Percocet, not comfortable standing for long periods. So my notes from the show are a bit more scattered than usual.

I was in the front of the general admission crowd for The Weather Station. I had last seen Tamara Lindeman and the Weather Station in an absolutely stunning headline performance at the very small Union Stage, just a block away from the Anthem. On Friday, as an opener, the Weather Station was a much reduced presence, not in band size — Lindeman still played both guitar and keyboards, and had a four-piece band accompanying her — but in reach. Their opening set was scarcely 25 or 30 minutes, mostly from Ignorance but starting with the somber “Marsh,” from the pandemic-era followup How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

After “Marsh,” Lindeman went back into the back catalogue with “Everything I Saw,” from All of it Was Mine in 2011. From there on, the rest of the brief set was all from Ignorance, but the band downplayed the syncopated folk-rock of the album and instead played up the Weather Station’s recent jazz influences with extended clarinet and saxophone solos by Karen Ng, who got much-deserved accolades from the crowd. Lindeman switched from guitar to piano after a song or two, fitting the more somber tone of her current band.

I like both All of It Was Mine, which was more of a pure folk record with some bluegrass influences, and How Is It, a moody jazz piece, but no one would deny that Ignorance is the pure stunner: both musically engaging and rhythmically upbeat, but also complex and thought-provoking lyrically, with devastating imagery of climate disaster delivered in Lindeman’s coolly observational alto. I still think regularly back to a lyric from “I Tried to Tell You,” “I'll feel as useless, As a tree in a city park / Standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart.”

Lindeman mostly didn’t engage with the audience, probably due to the very limited show time. With the Ignorance tracks backloaded, it took a bit for the rhythm section to kick in. She introduced the band hurriedly before “Subdivisions,” but the rush of the show, and the emphasis on the jazzy inclinations explored in How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars, diminished a bit of the visceral charge of Ignorance’s best material, like “Robber.” The crowd close in was rapt, but in a vast hall the buzz of drinkers and conversation threatened Lindeman’s subtle powers. After 25 or 28 minutes, she and band said a graceful thank-you and swiftly disappeared backstage.

Bow Wow WowThe Waitresses’s bratty 80s hit “I Know What Boys Like” played over the speakers before First Aid Kit took the stage. I was initially a bit nonplussed by the sisters Söderberg’s emphasis on glamour, as Klara Söderberg emerged in a lamé pantsuit and Johana Söderberg in reflective long leopard print dress. I should not have been. The band was once defined as a Swedish take on American roots rock and country, but it has been unabashed about its debt to the commercial sheen of the 1980s, including a recent Don Henley cover. Klara, on guitar, showcased her brassy vocals, playing nicely on sister Johana’s airier soprano on “Stay Gold,” and the show brought big choruses and drum machines to songs like “Angel,” which was provided its violin from synthesizers rather than a fiddle player, embracing synthesizer sounds and electronic textures behind the folk rock foundations.

My favorite First Aid Kid story is that they were initiated into American country rock roots via Emmylou Harris’s guest appearance on a Bright Eyes record. Their inauthenticity as expert mimics in the form is actually a truth they’ve never denied.

When playing songs from their latest album Palomino, the sisters joked that they “tried to make a happier record but kinda failed.” “It sounds happier, if you don’t listen to the lyrics,” said Johana, referencing “Wild Horses II,” a lovers spat debating whose version of the song is better, the Stones or the Flying Burrito Brothers. To no one’s surprise, since the band’s first global exposure was in the song “Emmylou,” the answer is “I prefer Gram’s.”

It had occurred to me that First Aid Kit has moved in the direction of Fleetwood Mac, arriving there from a different direction from the southern California Haim sisters but arriving at a roughly similar location. I had this thought even before Johana and Klara, long renowned for their powerhouse vocal covers (Paul Simon, Emmylou, Leonard Cohen) did a pared-back duet on Christine McVie’s “Songbird,” after encouraging the crowd to be quiet for their duet version on a single microphone. To their credit the audience shut up for the unadorned power of the sisters’ voices and a single acoustic guitar.

To my ears, the few simple duets, including “Ghost Town,” with its offhand lyric about DC window panes, and “The Hem of Her Dress” from Ruins, were the highlights that riveted the crowd’s attention. The full band returned for 2012’s “Emmylou,” illustrating that the song’s famed steel guitar is not actually a steel guitar. But the solo vocal from Johana had some of the wispy airiness that aesthetically pays tribute to Harris, much as the lyrics use her as the epitome of a musical and romantic partner — even though (fact check) Emmylou had always maintained that her relationship with Gram Parsons was solely musical during his lifetime.

The venue was packed, and the sisters said it had been too long since their last appearance which would have been… the Lincoln Theater?

Friends who’ve seen FAK in past tours remarked that they were always polished and stage-savvy, but they’ve gotten more theatrical as the audiences have grown. Clearly their audience had grown hugely in the intervening years since the last tour, pre-pandemic. In the big finish, with the driving “Out of My Head” and “King of the World” culminating in the encore with The Lion's Roar’s “My Silver Lining,” the sisters did some silly rock star moves, clapping along and waving hands to extend their personality to the back rows. “Out of My Head” particularly benefited from clever light shows using shadows to project their singing and playing against the side wall, and the urgent drumming and rhythm section was a reminder that they do share a homeland with Robyn and ABBA.

Full First Aid Kit setlist

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/19/2023 03:17PM by zwirnm.
Re: First Aid Kit and The Weather Station, The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023
July 19, 2023 12:31PM
Michael! Egad!!! "I Know What Boys Like" was by the Waitresses.
Re: First Aid Kit and The Weather Station, The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023
July 19, 2023 03:14PM
Wait, what? What song was I thinking about? Blame the Percocet.
Re: First Aid Kit and The Weather Station, The Anthem, Washington DC, July 14, 2023
July 19, 2023 05:28PM
> Blame the Percocet.

And lo, another band name is born.
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