About hangovers, Viking fights and murder ballads

Ragnar Ólafsson – house concert, Kraków; June 8th, 2017

The second house concert in Kraków started out a little slow, but in the end it was unbelievable and he declared it his favorite one yet. I enjoyed it very much too. It was the perfect mixture of dramatic, relaxed, sad and fun with a wonderful audience that made him feel welcome from the start. It was as if this was exactly where I belonged that night and I would not have wanted to be anywhere else.

I was up early, feeling well rested, relaxed for a while longer and then set out to explore Kraków. I didn’t have any specific plans, just drifted from place to place, walking wherever it looked nice and enjoyed the sunshine. Poland has been treating me to nice weather and it was another beautiful day. I had ice cream for lunch, walked more, relaxed at my hotel and went for the first warm dinner in almost a week. A very yummy vegan burger. Eventually it was time to catch a tram to the venue. When I arrived, another woman got there at the same time. Turns out that was Alicia, the singer for the night. She did not know which doorbell to ring and Bartek was not answering his phone so I called Ragnar, asking him to let her in. It was funny: “I have a singer here who would like to rehearse with you.” 🙂 He came down and opened the door, I took a walk, the listened to them sing through the open window. After half an hour or so, Alicia came down and let me in.

The apartment was nice and the hosts were lovely. It is amazing how at all the house shows the hosts let strangers into their home and their lives for a few hours and it is always wonderful. This one had a great vibe from the start, I felt right at home. Chatted with Ragnar for a bit, who was somewhat hungover, but generally in a good mood. Took a look around, sampled some food and settled down on the floor near the stage. The place filled up and we all sat comfortably when Bartek announced the concert was about to start. He gave quite a long speech of which the only word I understood was “Viking”. 😀

From the very first song I noticed how quiet and attentive this audience was. There were kids here too, but they all sat with their parents and listened – I had not expected that. <3 The audience was more silent than the birds outside. This time, when asking if we liked stories the answer was loud and clear “Yes!”. We got lots of hem that night and again I heard a few things I had not heard before. <3 I found it really interesting that he had viewed writing music as a craft before this album and only now learned that it the best music comes from the heart not the brain. He described how the songs just sort of “downloaded from cosmos” and wrote subconsciously. He ended up with 22 songs to chose from. I was immediately thinking “Outtakes!” That was a surprise to me, because all the songs I love sound like they come from the heart.

For the first time since Poznan there were some people in the audience who spoke Icelandic. Icelanders even as I understood. Luckily it was only a handful of them so we stuck to English and useful Polish words about “another drink” and “last drink”. 😉 ‘War’ was beautiful and the present baby made a few “do do” sounds in the background which fit surprisingly well. “I have a surprise for you guys. I am not alone” *laughter* “there are others like me” *more laughter*. He invited Alicia on stage to sing ‘Dozen’ with him and it worked well if a bit shaky at times. She seemed quite nervous. No reason though, the audience was very appreciative.

We got to sing again on ‘Relations’ and hell yes we did. 😀 The longest stories were the ones for ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ and ‘The Cannon’. It’s the perfect point in time too, about one third into the show. “I have strange ideas and then I make a song about it. This is how we get away with our strange ideas” 😀 The songs were mostly sung a bit lower than usual. I liked it. Before ‘The Cannon’ he asked us to imagine John and his hippie bus. I easily can of course. One funny part of the long story was how he would leave the window open on the bus and people would throw weed or cigarettes in there. 😀 The description of picking out gun because it was black always makes people laugh. New thing I learned: They were shooting at rocks. As I am writing this I think that it might be weird if you only read this one blog post, because I never tell the whole story, but I don’t want to keep repeating things, so I only pick out bits and pieces, hoping it is still interesting.

Ragnar told us the concert was sponsored by Ola’s (our host) home made wine. He told us he was hungover and needed to beat it, but the explanation was a bit more poetic. I’ve never heard the expression “having the hair of the dog” before, but it might be useful some times. Next was ‘Urges’, immediately followed by ‘Petals’. Stepping back on stage, Alicia told us it was a very difficult song. She managed though. 🙂

We learned that ‘Scar’ was supposed to be the last song on the album, because it has such a big build up, but then he wanted to end it on a depressing note, so he added ‘Red Wine’ after it. It still works perfectly as the last song of the set though. 🙂 Ragnar tried to walk of stage after it, but we would not let him, not only calling out for more, but one woman actually raising her arms and stopping him from walking past her. 😀

Someone immediately asked Ragnar to play something Icelandic and he promised to think about it. First it was ‘Bravery’ though, complete with a story about riding motor bikes and camping in the Rockies where you pee in a circle to keep out the grizzly bears. The song was written on a cliff and to illustrate that he quoted ‘The Lion King’. Then he put all the power he had into the song. It was so good and so much fun to watch him doing it.

Then, the biggest surprise of the night followed. After explaining how he is the piano player in Árstíðir and cannot really do these songs on guitar he decided to do an a cappella song for us, ‘Heyr, hymna smiður’. First though, he gave us a little background of the song starting with a recollection of singing it in the train station in Wuppertal and ending with a quite funny description of Vikings waging wars with rocks because they did not have any other weapons. The author of the song had his head split open during one of those and wrote the song as he lay dying. I thought it was way too funny to set the mood, but again the audience proved they could listen. He only sang the lead vocal with some added echo and he did it beautifully. You could have heard a pin drop and it left me in complete awe. <3 People even stayed silent for a moment after he was done, before they started to clap.

“I’ll play you the last song” “Awwwwww!”. Someone offered a deal that we could sing something if he sang some mote. he tested us, sang “Oh” and we immediately replied “oh-ho-ho”. Perfect. He then wondered which song to play, started “Every breath you take”, realized he could not do it, so he went for ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ and we managed a great sing along too. There were some beautiful voices in the room. 🙂 When introducing ‘Sleep now’ he said it was not as creepy as Nick Cave’s song, but almost and that he hoped people who wrote murder ballads didn’t actually need to kill people but just used their imagination. He joked that he wondered if we’d still wanted to talk to him after seeing the video for ‘Sleep now’. 😉 The song finally ended the show and with a happy sigh and lots of clapping I said goodbye to show #10.

Had to go and hug Ragnar afterwards, because it had been so much fun and a show that I thought was just gonna be pretty standard urned into something completely different. I had loved it. We talked for a while, sharing our views on the show, hugged a few more times and I finally said goodbye and goodnight until the next time.

pictures of this concert

Urges tour Poland: 10 gigs down, 4 to go. Next stop: Przybysławice

Setlist

More will come along
Wine
War
Dozen
Relations
Every Brick in Manhattan
The Cannon
Urges
Petals
Scar

Bravery
Heyr, hymna smiður
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

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