And then you smile though it aches

Poets of the Fall – MS Vinking Grace; March 10th, 2018

It had been almost three months since the last Poets of the Fall concert and I’d been missing the guys, so I was happy to see them again. A new tour, for their 15th anniversary no less, would of course go with a new setlist and I’d been wondering what may or may not be on there. In my head was a list of songs I was hoping for, but sadly, none of those were played. Yet, they still managed to surprise me and it turned out to be a great concert that did exactly what I’d hoped it would do: make me forget about real life for a little while. No matter what the circumstances, these guys will always manage to do that. 🙂

The cruise concerts was the end of a ten day vacation for me. The first part of said vacation had been all sorts of wonderful, but the second part was rather exhausting so I was happy to get a small break before returning to work on Monday. I flew to Helsinki on a Friday evening, spent the night at my friend K.’s place and the next day we met A. for lunch before setting out to Turku and boarding the Viking Grace. There were not so many of the usual suspects around, but we all met at the entrance to the club an hour after boarding, said hello, waited, then filled up the for row and settled in for more waiting.

I chatted with S. for a while, telling her I did not feel it yet, i.e. I was curious, but not yet excited. We discussed the possible setlist, stated our wishes (we were both wrong!). Boat gigs can be tricky, because you never know which audience you are going to get, but the first few rows seemed to be fans for the first time in my personal history of boat gigs, they did not allow alcoholic drinks at the front. I liked it. 🙂 Time went by surprisingly fast, the music played by the DJ was not too annoying and eventually the guys were announced. I had just said something about wondering what the new intro would be when it started. I liked it, but had now clue which song it might lead to.

The band walked on stage one by one and we cheered for them loudly while the intro turned into the first song. Marko started singing and the lyrics were right there in my mind for me to sing along. still, I had no idea which song I was singing and it took me halfway through the first verse to realize it was ‘Overboard’. Really? Wow! That was totally unexpected. I immediately turned to K., because I know it is her favorite song, but she was busy staring at the guys in awe and did not even notice me. 😉 What a fun song to start with. I honestly could not say when I had heard this one for the last time or if I ever did at all. Possible at one of my first two concerts, but pretty sure not after that. Nice move guys! 😀

We didn’t stay in the past for long though as the next song was ‘Daze’, time for the audience to prove we could sing along. It worked too, of course it did. 😀 Slowly, the real life problems that had been occupying my mind released their hold on me and when Marko asked if we wanted to hear the new single, I screamed along with everyone else, allowed myself to fall into the lyrics of ‘False Kings’ and was finally there, fully enjoying the concert. I love everything about the song and hearing it live was brilliant.

Next up was ‘Diamonds 4 Tears’ and I turned to S. because I had told her earlier that I hoped they would not bring it back. It was a brief “why oh why?” moment for me, then I shrugged and sang along anyway. With every band I have at least one song that feels overplayed to me, but just seems to belong on the setlist. It’s all part of the game. 😉 The next song made up for that though. It was ‘Shallow’, an old love of mine, that gets rarely played and always brings a big smile to my face. I can still remember the first time I’ve heard it and it has not lost any of its magic since.

As far as surprises are concerned, I thought this was it and the rest of the gig would be the usual suspects. Boy was I wrong! No song could have been more perfect for me right then and here than ‘Kamikaze Love’. The perfect song to jump to and scream out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. 😀 Then as a counterpoint to take us back to calmer waters ‘Given and denied’ came along. There are other songs on ‘Twilight Theater’ that I would have loved to hear more, but I always welcome this one. It fit too and brought me close to tears. <3

‘Late Goodbye’ was back as well of course. It would have been strange to celebrate the 15th anniversary without their very first single. They unexpectedly said goodbye right after and the only thought on my mind was “Wait! This was too short!” When they came back and went right into ‘Children of the Sun’ I though it was really over already and could not believe how fast time had gone by. Wrong again! It was not the last song in the set any more. 🙂

‘Dreaming wide awake’ had me jumping again and when ‘War’ came along I wanted to hug them for putting it back on the setlist. The song brought me to tears again for many reasons. It was just perfect for me. with ‘Lift’ and ‘Carnival of Rust’ the concert ended on a familiar note. The guys took a final bow, waved and left. I wanted to rewind the entire gig and play it all over again. It was over too soon.

I loved the gig, loved the interaction between the guys, loved watching them work, loved the little gestures of recognition from the guys. I smiled at the red beanie Marko was wearing. It felt very retro to me, even though back in the day it was a red baseball cap if I recall correctly. 😉  I liked the look and am curious now what is going to be next. I fully expect the red Adidas jacket to make a re-appearance soon. 😛 Overall I liked the setlist too, but I had the feeling it did not really flow yet. It took me quite a while to get into it, but of course that may have just been me. We will see if it stays the same or not.

When it was over we sat down for drinks, talked for a while and then hit the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning. It was a good end to a fun night. 🙂

Setlist (not entirely sure this is complete or the right order)

False Kings
Diamonds 4 Tears
Kamikaze Love
Given and denied
Late Goodbye

Children of the Sun
Dreaming wide awake
Carnival of Rust

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Time goes so fast and even mountains never last

Ragnar Ólafsson – Scena Fugazi, Warsaw; March 5th 201

My expectations were high for the last show of Ragnar’s Poland tour, not only because it was the last one, but also because it was taking place in Warsaw and the other two concerts there had been brilliant. It was a different venue this time around, so I wasn’t 100% sure if the special magic of Warsaw could be carried over to this new place, but I needn’t have worried. It was as perfect as can be, not only the longest show I saw on this tour, but also one of the best. A good end to a good tour and a last high before returning to real life the next day. It left me feeling happy and grateful.

My train from Puszczykowo was not supposed to leave before noon, but somehow I felt too restless to stay and opted for going to Poznan earlier than originally planned. Spent the extra time having tea before continuing to Warsaw. Was too tired to do anything but rest when I arrived and the hotel as well as the venue were in an industrial area with not much to see. So I relaxed, had some food and went to the venue just in time to hear the end of the soundcheck. Gave a quick hug to Ragnar and sat down with my book until P. arrived. We passed the time talking and just before show start Gosia joined us too.

Right at the beginning we learned that they would be playing two sets and use up all their energy because it was the last gig of the tour so things were looking good for a long show. The audience liked that. After a short introduction, they went right into ‘SSDD’. It still surprised me how much I had grown to like the song over the past concerts. It is generally nice to hear songs in a different version, but this one especially. Ragnar explained how the solo songs are tender and how silence is always a part of them, so they only work when the audience listens and he liked it how people did. He was right, it was rather quiet and the perfect setting for ‘Wine’. I like how I always get a closer look during that song, because he almost always plays right in front of me.

He mentioned how he and David would go back to the studio right after this tour to record songs like the next one, ‘Deva’. If all of the new songs are like the ones I already know it is going to be a great album. This one surely works for me and once again I marveled at David’s violin playing. <3 As a guest Ragnar introduced Dagmara from the band Dagadana with a story about opening for her band and her use of chaos pads for effects, six of them. It sure sounded interesting and since few people actually knew what chaos pads are they needed to be explained first. 😉 The start of the song dissolved into laughter because Dagmara realized she had the wrong lyrics with her so after Ragnar sang “I raise my glass” she answered “and I left my card” and walked off stage to get the right lyrics. 😀 It was still a great version of the song. 🙂

When it’s the last show of a tour I always try to take everything in even more so than I usually to, because I want some extra memories to take home and last me until I see the next concert. Ragnar talked more than he had at the past few gigs, giving a few explanations for the songs. He told us ‘War’ was “a metaphor for the war inside when you’re not doing well”. I loved that he was in a talkative mood and enjoyed watching him and David work. we looked at ach other a lot that night, always with a smile. A few times, I switched places because the light was nice and I wanted to take pictures from different angles. It was one of those nights where I felt every single moment of the concert.

“Do you like stories?” Well, of course we do, especially when the details change and they come alive. It had been a while since I’d heard about the bricks in Manhattan and how it looks a bit like Łódź. Not only was the poem that lead to ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ written on a beer napkin, but it happened at a bar outside Chelsea hotel. 😉 I fell in love with the song the first time I heard it and here too, the violin makes it even better than it already was. If it does get recorded I hope this is the version that ends up on the album. Before taking a break he asked us how long we’d need to refill our drinks and decided on ten minutes. First it was time for ‘Bravery’ though with a little discussion about different motorcycles. The story still makes me laugh every night and I don’t think I could repeat it in a way that it’s as funny when it’s written. You’re just gonna have to go and see Ragnar play if you wanna hear it. 😛 The song has so much energy, it made me want to hear more right away. It was very powerful that night. <3

We spent the waiting time chatting and it felt longer than ten minutes, but I didn’t bother to check the time, was just happy to see them back on stage after a while. Ragnar asked how many people had hear his music before and there were a few. The started the second set with ‘Walls’, explaining how it was still in the making and they wanted to try it out. This song has been mine from the first moment I’ve heard it and it touches me more deeply every time. I still cannot figure out why, just know that it speaks to me on many levels and this rendition was as good as it gets with a haunting violin and beautiful singing. I sighed when it was over and gave them a thumbs up.

Before ‘Relations’ he explained that the album changed his way of writing music because instead of wanting to write smart and thinking of theories he just wrote what came to him and how he still does not know what the song is about but is moved by it. Those are the best songs. Since nobody answered when being asked if we were OK with singing along, he told us that in Iceland being silent means you agree. I beg to differ here. 😉 Guiding us to the call and response was funny though, because the guys showed us different ways to sing and assured that even mumbling along was OK. This song is another one that grew on me slowly and I like it a lot now. I remember that I thought the ‘oh, oh’ part was a tad too whiney when I first heard it, but it works really well with the sing along part.

The story for ‘Southern Nights’ turned into banter about being in the same room and car and on the same stage together for 15 days now and once they return home they are gonna be in the same studio for a while too. Good thing they get along. 🙂 Getting the audience involved worked nicely and left me smiling. It was a good contrast to the much sadder ‘Urges’ that followed. Compared to the first Poland tour this one feels a lot happier. A lot of water has gone down the river since and it shows. The sadness still has its place, but it is not as all encompassing. It all works for me – I loved that tour and I love this one as well.

Behind Ragnar on the stage there was a gap so they joked about him taking too many steps back and falling off. Luckily that did not happen though and he called Dagmara back for ‘Petals’. She noted that judging from the lyrics he must have “a very serious love life” and he replied that the stronger the love is, the stronger the hurt turns out to be. true that. For me the song is the master piece on the album (and it’s a brilliant album overall). They sang and played a beautiful version of it too. <3

Of course we could not go into the last song ‘Scar’ without hearing about hating Banjos but loving Banjo players, because they are the only ones who know how to handle the instrument. They told us about a photo shoot in the morning too and how cold it was with just their stage clothes on. Suffering for the art. 😉 They put everything into this last song of the set, making good on their promise from the start of the show. It was just amazing and lead to well deserved cheering in the end.

They came back to play ‘Needle and Thread’ for us and joked about unintentionally getting their hands on some new clothes this tour. 😉 We also learned that Polish people know more about partying and drinking than Icelanders and heard the story about the previous year’s Polish wedding where Ragnar sang Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin on a Prayer’. there has got to be a video of hat somewhere. 😛

Inevitably we were down to the final songs and as opposed to the previous day it meant time for murder ballads and the story, really made me laugh because it turned out that David thinks Ragnar talks too much. Considering just how much David talks this was funny. 😉 Anyway, it lead to Ragnar confirming with us that we did want to hear the long version of the story. they decided to play ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ too and we both had the same idea, asking Gosia if she knew the lyrics, after she noted “You should do this with Kylie Minogue”. She was game and joined them on stage. It was fun, especially because she lost her place in the lyrics while checking them on the phone and ended up telling Ragnar to “Be Kylie”. I love it, screwed up or not. 😀 ‘Sleep now’ ended in the audience again and that was just the way it was supposed to be. What a show! the longest ion this tour I saw too.

Even before the concert, Ragnar was visibly exhausted already and I did not blame him for not wanting to go out after. Eventually tour life catches up with all of us. Thus I thanked him, gave him a hug and said goodbye. P. and I remained for a while and talked until I had finished my last drink. The I said goodbye to David and Bartek until the next tour. It was a short night and long train ride home the next day, but total worth it. 🙂

Ragnar Poland/Slovakia tour winter 2018: 7 gigs down, none to go


Every Brick in Manhattan

Southern Nights

Needle and Thread
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

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