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PLAYBACK:stl-First Aid Kit w/ Samantha Crain

First Aid Kit w/Samantha Crain | PLAYBACK:stl | Ogden Theatre, Denver | Writer: Matt Ehrlich | 11.18.14

“Although anticipation for First Aid Kit was high, I think everyone wished Crain could have stayed and played twice as long.”

Before Samantha Crain’s set was even half finished, I remarked to my wife that this was the best opening act I’d seen/heard in years. The setting seemed intentionally simple—only red lighting and a mic—which helped focus the audience in on Crain’s brilliance. The usual harmonica and backing band were absent; it was just her and us. Intimate. Perfect.

Her voice was a masterful vessel, which navigated her songs from smoky, whiskey-dried lows through deep, whispery shadows and on up to longing, sometimes desperate, highs. She accompanied this with only a guitar, sturdy and expertly played.

Before every song, she engaged the crowd, and then explained each song’s background and meaning clearly to us. Whether she was whimsically enlightening us to the fact that”Devils in Boston” was actually written about NYC, or solemnly describing meeting the subject of”Elk City,” an over-sharing stranger who forced on her the entire story before she could escape the chance encounter, Crain expertly pulled the crowd into her world.

Since the artist started off as a fiction writer, it is not surprising that her lyrics are well written. Her ability to bring complexity and simplicity simultaneously, evoke heart-rending images and laugh-out-loud moments in the same line, and truly touch people’s cores, is getting her close to the same league as her influences and heroes, Bob Dylan and Neil Young (a comparison and praise I don’t use lightly).

After the standard allotted time for an opening-act and having had taken us along through many of her more well-known songs, Crain closed with a number written for another of her mentors, Jason Molina, who died last year. She wrote it before he passed but recorded it afterward. It is a truly beautiful yet harrowing song about depression and learning to accept a place of sadness, which ends in the line “Don’t go now,” which certainly echoed the feeling of the audience: Don’t go now. I think everyone wished she could have stayed and played twice as long.

All of which has me looking forward to a new album, anticipated in 2015, and more chances to see her live (maybe even headlining?). She absolutely will have many more people lined up to see her after such a strong performance this time.

live FAK_300LThe Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg—also known as First Aid Kit—took the stage as the stage lit up with a grand but not overdone light-show and backdrop meant to accent the ladies’ golden outfits (their latest album is titled Stay Gold).

They started with the title track of their second album,”The Lion’s Roar,” and right from the beginning I was impressed with the sisters’ stage presence and poise. Also, their opener had pulled the crowd in with local charisma and charm, which worked well for First Aid Kit, whose music the crowd was more familiar with, but whose between-song banter was still just a little bit stiff. (They are from another country and English is their second language, which makes it completely understandable.) So, thanks at least in part to Samantha Crain, the flow started strong and just got stronger because the whole room was engaged and loving the energy that was going back and forth.

First Aid Kit played many of their better-known songs off the first two albums, including”Ghost Town” (acoustic without microphones), “Blue,” “King of the World,” and “Wolf,” while mixing in new songs like “Stay Gold” and “My Silver Lining.” They also jokingly started to cover The White Stripes’ ‘”Seven Nation Army” before really playing Jack White’s “Love Interruption,” and delivering a beautiful rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Colorado Girl,” for their first time live, this last song completely enamoring the Denver crowd.

They ended the night with probably their best-known song, “Emmylou.” The chorus is a sing-along favorite, which they repeated several extra times until everyone in the room had a chance to harmonize with two of the best users of harmony in the music business today. It was feel-good way to end an exceptionally intimate night with two acts that are destined to only get bigger and better. I was looking forward to the next time before I even left the building. Hurry back! | Matt Ehrlich

  • Posted on November 18