Ragnar Ólafsson – house concert, Kraków; June 7th, 2017
After Cieszyn, the first concert in Kraków was the second house gig where I did not make it on the list of guest when I applied. Luckily, Ragnar decided he wanted me to be there and invited me anyway. <3 Thank you so much, I would not have wanted to miss either of them. This one took place in a beautiful apartment under the roof amongst an excited audience and took a turn towards funny in the end that I had not expected at all. A wonderful concert.
Getting to Kraków was easy too and I even had some time for sightseeing before making my way to the venue. The best part of it all was that there are two gigs here so for the first time in over a week I get to stay in the same place for more than a day. No alarm tomorrow, no bags to pack, no traveling. 🙂 Arrived early, waited, took a walk or two around the block, hoping I wasn’t in the wrong place. I wasn’t. More people showed up and we had to go all the way upstairs to get there. We were greeted at the door by the hosts. they had made a huge effort, selling real printed tickets and they had posters too. Their daughter excitedly stamped everyone’s arm as we walked in. 🙂
It was a gorgeous apartment with a nice view and space for lots of people. The stage was set up by a window, with people gathering all around on couches, chairs and the floor. There were lots of kids around and thus, despite all the adults listening closely, it never really got quiet. The kids were running back and forth, sometimes watching for a while, then going off again. Everyone had fun though and that is the main thing. 🙂
By now, the setlist is fixed, because it works well this way. Hence, no more surprises for me before the encore. That doesn’t mean I am enjoying it any less though. Once I know what is happening in terms of the song order I can concentrate on other things, take in what is happening around me, listen for differences in the songs and stories. I don’t think I have ever seen so many concerts in such a short amount of time and it is really making me happy to be able to do this. I also know how lucky I am. 🙂
‘Wine’ was great that night, felt even more emotional than usual. I loved it. Ragnar told us about the album, saying he hoped we were prepared for hearing a lot of love songs. “if it gets too emotional just grab somebody and…” “And what?” came the question. “I’m just setting up the scene here, you have to use your imagination…” He gave some ideas than added “improvise”. 😀 People laughed it that so it was a good contrast to the sad songs.
For ‘Dozen’ Natalia Lechwar was asked to join him on stage. Before singing she had to confirm he pronounced her name right. She was also a great singer. I don’t know how Bartek finds these people, but so far they have all done the job very well. 🙂 She talked to me after the show and I learned that she is studying to be a classical singer. Wow.
Ragnar was in a talkative mood. Even when he taught us the “oh” part in ‘Relations’ he said he was gonna do it “very dramatic, very heartbroken” or sometimes more like “depressed and surprised” and gave examples of how each sounded. Then he gave an example of what we should sing and the hosts reacted with “You’re kidding me” and “Can we do the other part? It sounds easier”. Everyone laughed and then everyone sang anyway and it was indeed beautiful (most of the time anyway ;))
This audience said they liked good stories and thought it was funny that Manhattan looks a bit like Łódź. It was a great rendition of ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ too. Quite a few people in the room knew Árstíðir and someone even named ‘The Cannon’ as her favorite. The story was really long this time including a long description of Ragnar’s best friend. It all fit too, at least as far as I can judge. We also learned that every time he goes to the US he comes back with a few songs. People asked questions too and wanted to know if he still liked cinnamon after the whiskey. The answer was that it brings the wrong memories. What followed was the best version of ‘The Cannon’ on this tour so far. <3
We got a long story about the Polish wedding Bartek, Magda and Ragnar went to after the Dłutówek concert that included hearing about a tradition where the groom hides his shoe and whoever finds it has to sing which was why Ragnar got to sing Bon Jovi with the wedding band. He also said when he saw the pictures in the morning wondering who the drunk Icelander was that thought he was Bon Jovi. Bartek let on he would not have believed the story of all the metal bands if he had not seen that. 😀 I could totally imagine. I have seen that side of him a few times.
‘Vegetate’ followed ‘Urges’ again so we would not get too depressed. The combination of the two works really well I think. He told us how, even in feeling sorry for himself and being he had a little voice inside his head telling him to cheer up and that it was just a first world problem and therefore ‘Vegetate’ was born. It all lead to joking about vodka speaking to him instead of the little voice inside his head. So we learned that the guy in the song really has nothing to complain about because it is not that bad, but lives life like a vegetable. “You know, you just sit there”. 😀
‘Petals’ was lovely. Natalia did it really well too. Considering they only meet an hour or two before the show, these local musicians are even more amazing. I thought it would take much more time to work out the details of such a performance. I loved how quiet and attentive the audience was during the songs and how active in between. It felt different at times, because there were always kids running around, but they were the only ones who did not sit still and listen.
The intro to ‘Scar’ lead to a brief discussion because someone did not agree with “five minutes of listening to Banjo is too much”. They agreed that it is a good instrument, just should not be used to much. This way, even the most dramatic and depressing songs can lead to amusement.
Yes, we certainly wanted more and got ‘Bravery’ first, which two of the present kids accompanied with rattles. They did it well too – it totally fit. We got a nice long story about where the song was written too. The routine was sitting down with a bottle of liquor at night and writing song. For this it involved Vanilla Jägermeister. I didn’t know or need to know something like that existed. It sounds revolting. 😉 Ragnar also had to go busking to earn money to drive back to Denver for his flight home. Apparently his travel guitar was treated badly but survived the trip. It must be a good guitar then. 🙂
After that he explained murder ballads, playing part of ‘Where the wild Roses grow’, asking if we wanted to hear it, but I was the only one who said yes, so he wasn’t convinced, but then decided to play it anyway, before finally playing his own murder ballad ‘Sleep now’. Both were fun and not enough for us yet. We all clapped and cheered until he came back.
Someone called for Bon Jovi and he replied “be careful what you wish for”, then asked us if we wanted it. Some people agreed, but it required shots of vodka so he had one and tried to make us vote on “sad sad song” vs Bon Jovi. “That’s a sentence I did not expect to say ever in my life.” The reply from the audience “You know we’re gonna vote both.” and “Sing a sad Bon Jovi song”, but he felt there was no such thing. I disagree, but I didn’t want to start that discussion. Anyway, he started with ‘Red Wine’ and despite a lot of ruckus in the background thanks to the children, it worked surprisingly well.
“Did I really promise you a Bon Jovi song?” More shots were in order to get in the mood for what was coming so I got out the Salmiakki and we had a little debate if it was better than Topas or not. We disagreed. It did the trick though. Last song was ‘Living on a Prayer’ then, complete with walking around and asking us to sing along. He also forgot the start of the second verse and naturally I had a blackout too. Dang, I thought I knew that one. It was a ton of fun though, just because it was so unexpected and not taken seriously at all. I do like Bon Jovi, but it didn’t bother me that he was making fun of them. It was way too hilarious not to love it. <3
I stayed a while, had shots with both Bartek and Ragnar, tried some food, chatted and finally sad goodbye. Just made it in time for the last tram and stumbled into bed, comfortably drunk. A great night, more tomorrow! 😀
Urges tour Poland: 9 gigs down, 5 to go. Next stop: Kraków
More will come along
Every Brick in Manhattan
Where the wild Roses grow
Livin on a Prayer