The spirit of classic Americana country-folk was reignited at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Thursday night through the one-two punch of rising folkster Samantha Crain and melodious trendsetters First Aid Kit, who both elegantly proffered their modernized revision on the elegiac, melancholy musings of folk-legend lore.
Plucked out of Shawnee, Oklahoma, Crain’s small-town charms belied her modestly mighty voice. Forceful yet wispy, her voice, much like her presence upon the stage, was a revelatory little weapon. With acoustic guitar in tow, her warmly presented tunes — especially the evocatively road-weary number “For the Miner” — were compelling to witness as she strummed with her brand of minimalist gusto.
For all her technical brilliance, Crain’s most effective trump card was her ability to roam free and allow her voice a slight grit, a hint of tangible affability that enlivened the audience and evoked similarly rambling icons of folk’s past such as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. The minimalist atmosphere Crain enveloped herself in ensured that her spotlight wouldn’t falter — and as she tours further, it will be difficult to brush off her preternaturally assured talents.
First Aid Kit’s impassioned belting was simultaneously transcendent and elevating, both for the audience and for sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, who comprise the band. Their polished, harmonious melodies were studio perfect, nearly to the point of sheer bewilderment. Johanna, the elder Soderberg, has a husky, raspy vocal that weaves itself effortlessly with her younger sister’s honeyed, graceful croon.
Early in their set, during “Stay Gold,” the microphones inadvertently cut out with the sisters unaware of the technical difficulty, almost as if they were entranced by their own golden tones. The audience, in the confusion, began chanting the song’s emphatic coda along with the Soderberg twins — an affable bonding circumstance that would persist throughout their gig.
Part of the pleasure of witnessing the Soderberg sisters on stage was their palpable sentimentality and reverence toward their forebears. Much of their stage banter consisted of wistful reflection of their illustrious past — their first performance at the Fox, their collaborations with renowned producer-cum-Bright Eyes bandmember Mike Mogis and, most endearingly, their fervent praise for Jack White, whose incendiary blues-rock was paid homage in the sisters’ rolling, sunset hoedown rendition of White’s solo smash “Love Interruption.”
“Emmylou,” First Aid Kit’s heart-on-sleeve tribute to their vintage idols, was an ideal set-closer, encompassing their zeal for classic Americana culture. Their pleas to “sing, little darling, sing with me” were acquiesced by the delighted crowd. After their departure from the stage, the twangy reverberations of the past two hours ensured that the remnants of folk’s communal essence were still present in the hearts of Samantha Crain and the Soderberg sisters.