Many stories, a dragonslayer sidekick and future tour plans

Ragnar Ólafsson – Meskalina, Poznań; October 29th, 2017

When I saw Ragnar was playing in Poznań once again, at the same venue he had started the tour in May (OK, almost started, it was the second gig), I had a good feeling about it. I had totally loved that place the fist time around and was happy to return it. I was not disappointed. Everything about this venue is right from the stage to the lights and sound to the audience. Needless to say the show was just right too. It was almost two hours long with all the songs I wanted to hear. What a great way to end this tour. 🙂

It was only a short trip from Kościan to get to Poznań so I could sleep late and did not have to leave before noon. I needed the sleep too and still felt tired when I woke up. The weather was shitty and fit my subdued mood. Once arrived I spent a few hours trying to find out about my wallet, hoping that at least some of its contents had been found, but no such luck, neither at the train station nor with the police. Kudos for the Polish people for their patience though, especially the friendly staff at several hotels who helped me along when I could not communicate.With a few hours left to kill and the cold outside getting to me I spent some time at the train station where it was warm and I had wifi.

Made it to the venue just before they opened, heard the last bit of soundcheck as I walked in and briefly said hello to Ragnar before he had to get ready for the concert. I got myself a tea and caught up on one of my blogs while I waited. The place filled up quickly, I saw that as a good sign. The made us wait past the time indicated on the ticket and started later, but I don’t think any musicians ever start on time 😉 Before they walked on stage I noticed whiskey and shots apart from the usual and wondered if they had a reason for drinking. We soon learned it was because it was the last gig of the tour. 🙂 Ragnar also told us that Poznań is his favorite city in Poland, before he even played one note.

The setlist was the same as the previous for the first few songs and again ‘Wine’ was played completely unplugged. Baldvin stayed in the background and Rganar decided to step on to a few chairs in front row and played from there. I loved it. Not only did I get an up close view, but it sounded great too. 🙂 I noticed then already and with many songs later how well people listened. They waited until they were absolutely sure the song was over before clapping. It had not always been like that at the other two concerts I saw. A quick poll showed that some people had attended the concert back in May and came back. With such a good audience it was easy to promised they’d play their hearts out for us that night and they made good on the promise. 😀

For ‘Dozen’ he called Victoria on stage to help him out and she did a wonderful job. I had heard a bit of it during soundcheck already and really liked her voice. Afterwards he asked us if we were ready to help him sing and someone asked back if he was ready for it which lead to much laughter. He stepped over to the piano and taught us the sing-along for ‘Relations’. We needed about two tries to get it right and nobody messed up during the song either. This might have been the most perfect rendition of this song that I have heard all year. <3

He talked a little bit about his other bands and introduced Baddi as his dragonslayer sidekick. I quite like that description. When Ragnar told us the story of ‘Bravery’ and mentioned John was half redneck, half hippie, half cowboy, half biker, I almost said “So he is two people?”, but bit my tongue for once. 😉 The thought of Jägermeister Vanilla still makes me shudder and it sounded like many people in the room agreed. It did not take much to imagine that this is the shot they serve you when you arrive in hell as he suggested. The song of course kicked ass. I love the power of it and I love the anger too. It is very ‘Darkness on the edge of town’ somehow. Did we have any requests? ‘Petals’ someone shouted from the back and I asked for ‘The Spirit of Man’, but he wanted to do both later so I noted that he was only waiting for us to ask for the song he was gonna play anyway. It was true, but sadly I blanked on the setlist so I could not do him that favor. It turned out to be ‘Urges’ and a great version too.

I did not turn around and check to see how many people raised their hands in responds to the question if we’d ever been heart-broken, but there must have been many. I know I did. Really, who hasn’t been? I also knew that ‘A Prayer’ was going to be next, but for once I chose not to film it and just listened. Oh my, it still gets me every single time. Next was an interlude about drinking on this tour and some banter with Bartek before Victoria joined them on stage again for ‘Petals’. “Beautiful” is not strong enough a word to describe that song. So much sadness, pain, resignation all in one, mixed with a hint of understanding that it had to be this way and coming to terms with it. This song is truly a masterpiece. <3

Of course we wanted to hear a metal song next and I got to hear ‘The Spirit of Man’ again. It was perfect, including a drums track they played for it. The best about it was Baldvin’s guitar work for it though. He poured everything he had into his playing. I believe it worked even better than the first time around. I really need to get a Lightspeed Legend concert soon! It made me smile when Ragnar asked us if we were tired. Hell no! So we heard more stories about traveling with John on the Mississippi and plans about a second solo album, ready before the next tour in Poland next year. Bartek shouted from the back that it was already in planning. Tell me more! A great version of ‘Needle and Thread’ followed. Slowly, but surely I am getting the lyrics down too.

When announcing ‘Scar’ he goofed up the quote saying “It’s a grinning scar…” and I just shook my head. He noticed right away and corrected it. What was more interesting was that he told us he was just writing the album from the heart, without listening to his inner censor and it made him write songs unlike anything before. Yes, I can feel that on the album. I did feel it on some other songs as well though and wonder how they happened and if maybe, without him noticing, the inner censor has been asleep as few other times too. Whatever the case, there are songs that I feel stronger than others, but it may have nothing to do with the way they were written.

They left stage, but did not wait long to come back. Ragnar asked us for more requests and someone said ‘Wine’ so he was like ‘Red Wine’. The answer “Whichever you want”. Well, since we had ‘Wine’ already, he sat down at the piano for ‘Red Wine’ saying it is the most depressing song he had ever written. One of them for sure, but I love the deep melancholia in it so I enjoy hearing it nonetheless. This night I could hear and feel the pain in those words. ‘Vegetate’ was a good choice to follow it. Otherwise people might have gotten depressed. His description of feeling sorry for himself and having a little angel on his shoulder whispering about things not being so bad after all did not fail to make me smile again. He even added a new line to the song about losing his car keys. 🙂

I asked for ‘Shine’, already guessing that might not work. He liked the suggestion, but said it was a hard song to do like this so I asked for ‘More will come along’ next which worked nicely. 🙂 I had not realized I had missed that song. He wanted to know if we were sure we wanted to hear more. Of course we were and got treated to ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ next. It’s a shame that song has never been recorded.

I could have listened to more songs all night, but Ragnar said he was only gonna play two more songs, because after all that beer he’d need a bathroom soon. Someone suggested he could take a break now and then come back and play more. I seconded that notion, but he would not. We got the two murder ballads though, with a long explanation of what they are too. I might have made a few comments there as well. Somehow it was that kind of a night. 😉 ‘Where the wild Roses’ go  was much fun that night, even though not so many people sang along und ‘Sleep now’ is always great. Again, he stepped on the chairs, this time to my right. It worked really well and if he’d been up for it, he could have played more songs after. All the great concerts have to end though and this was as good as it gets. 😀

Afterwards there was time for chats and hugs and goodbyes. It had been a good tour and there will be some sort of repetition next year for sure. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go as well. For now I was content to have been there and did not mind the long trip home. Thank you for the great night, see you soon!

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
War
Dozen
Relations
Bravery
Urges
A Prayer
Petals
The Spirit of Man
Needle and Thread
Scar

Red Wine
Vegetate
More will come along
Every Brick in Manhattan

Where the wild roses grow
Sleep now

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Riders on the Storm

Ragnar Ólafsson – Szklarnia, Kościan; October 28th, 2017

My second trip to Poland in one week didn’t go so well. At the train station in Poznan my wallet was stolen (yes, for the second time in as many years) and I only have myself to blame for not being more attentive). Either way, shit happens, I made it to the concert and way and hearing and seeing Ragnar and Baldvin play made it all better. I had a great night, despite the fact that I had no money and yet no idea how I was gonna make my trip to Iceland Airwaves the coming week. I was among friends and they made me forget which was exactly what I needed.

The main thing for me was making it to Kościan in time for the gig. Everything else would work out somehow. I cancelled my credit card, told my landlord for the night my dilemma and he even drove me to the police to report it and offered to lend me some money. Luckily I had plenty of food and Ragnar had already promised to provide drinks for the night so I was all set. The venue was really surprising – a greenhouse. From Bartek I learned that the owner started having concerts there just for friends and some fun and more people came every time. It was certainly a cool place and I was greeted with big hugs when I arrived and invited to dinner. I had eaten, but still felt like I was starving (telling Ragnar I was “a little bit hungry” was the understatement of the year). I felt much better after that. <3

There were lots of tables and all the seats close to the stage were reserved so I decided to alternate between standing and sitting on the floor in front of the stage. There was another band that night, Yellow Son, and I thought they’d go first, but actually it was Ragnar’s turn. He and Baddi played a short but intense set before leaving the stage to the second act of the night, but I’m getting ahead of myself here…

After a short introduction by the owner and a longer one from Bartek they guys were greeted loudly and warmly when they walked on stage. I took my place in front of it and smiled at them, hoping this would be a good one so I could forget my worries for the night. The audience reminded me a little bit of the one at that manor house back in June, at least in terms of not understanding much English and I feared they might not be the most attentive audience. I was so wrong! As soon as the guys started playing they were totally quiet and really listened. Wow! They stated with ‘SSDD’ and the acoustic ‘WIne’, but my first highlight of the night was ‘War’. I don’t know why Ragnar did it, but he sang much lower than he usually does and it worked very well on the song. I loved it!

This night’s singer was someone who had joined him before back in June, I believe it was in Myslovice. Her name is Natalia and she did a great job on Dozen. She was there with her parents and brother, who watched with pride. 🙂 On this song he sang rather low as well – perfect. He always sings it in a way to compliment the voice and range of whoever sings the song with him. <3 ‘A Prayer’ was the perfect contrast after the duet. Powerful singing and powerful guitars. It has been one of my favorite songs from the first time I’ve heard it and I still cannot get enough.

There were not as many stories as usual, since he thought he might not be understood, but he spoke a few introductory words to the songs nonetheless. Just playing works just as well for me. I loved the setlist and I loved the audience reaction too, cheering in just the right places. ‘Bravery’ was amazing as always and Natalia nailed ‘Petals’ after that. Hearing someone sing really well sometimes makes me wish I could do that, but I cannot carry a tune for the life of me. Singing along is the best I can do. Oh well, at least I do it from the heart, always hoping nobody listens too closely. 😉

‘Scar’ and ‘Needle and Thread’ ended the set much too soon. I loved both, but I hadn’t had enough yet. Luckily, the rest of the audience felt the same and we asked for more. We got the two murder ballads, Nick Cave’s ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ and Ask the Slave’s ‘Sleep now’. I loved both, but had sure hoped for more. Oh well, it was time for Ragnar to leave the stage to yellow snow and time for me to go and hug him.

We sat side stage, together with P., who seemed to be a friend of Bartek. She brought vodka so there was lots of drinking. Yellow Snow where pretty good, played well and rocked the house for about an hour. I enjoyed watching them and just hanging out. After they were done there was a jam session with different player. Ragnar had told me before the show that it was dedicated to Club 27 ad he’d perform a doors song. He had counted on using a keyboard, but that was taken down after Yellow Snow finished playing so he had to figure out something else, claiming he was too drunk to play guitar.

That did not matter though as there were already two guitar players on stage among others. He joined them for The Doors’ ‘People are strange’ and Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Hey Joe’ then traded vocals with a female singer on Nivana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’. He got really into it too so when he walked off the stage I joked “Who is that drunk Icelander thinking he is Kurt Cobain”? Afterwards he watched and I told him “I have the feeling you are not done yet”. He did not deny and the moment I choose to take a bathroom break he was back on stage. I don’t remember that first song, because I only caught half of it, but after it was Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Foxy Lady’ (“I have never sung that song, but I know it”) and finally The Doors’ ‘Riders on the Storm” for which he called his “Dragon slayer / Sidekick” Baddi to the stage. It was awesome! People were dancing and pogoing too. This was exactly what I needed!

Some more people performed before the whole thing wound down past midnight and it was time to say goodbye. I did not want the night to end, because I did not want to be alone with my thoughts, knowing they would hit me hard as soon as I was back at my hotel. Thus I dragged it on and hugged Ragnar many times before I finally left. Luckily I was too tired to think when I finally got home, grateful for the distraction I’d had. <3

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
War
Dozen
A Prayer
Urges
Bravery
Petals
Scar
Needle and Thread

Where the wild Roses grow (Nick Cave cover)
Sleep now

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