The poetry of leaving

Ragnar Ólafsson – Tabačka Kulturfabrik, Košice; February 24th, 2018

Here they are again, the tears that invariably come on the way home when I’m returning from really good concerts, reluctant to go back to what might be referred to as “real life”. It’s being torn between having to go and wanting to stay infinitely, it’s sadness that it’s over and happiness to have been part of it, when memories fill my head and all the emotions need an outlet. There might have been a little too much alcohol involved and I certainly did not get enough sleep this past weekend, but none of that matters. What matters is that I was among friends, that I was truly at home, with my heart and soul at pace for a while, with great music and good conversations to remind me of all the things worth living for. It was a night to remember.

After too little sleep due to early checkout time and a lovely morning walk in Prešov, I made my way to Košice by bus. Sunshine and ice cold wind greeted me there as I walked the city. A little sightseeing, a little rest and off to the venue for dinner before the show. It was a nice place with a cafe, bistro, cinema and concert hall. They had good food, good tea and I enjoyed having some alone time to read before the concert. 🙂 When the guys arrived I just waved hello and only later went for a quick hug. They’d had a long night out and looked the part, but more importantly, they looked like they were having a good time. It was then I knew it would be a good gig. 😀

As opposed to the previous day there were no seats this time, so I dropped my coat front row center, put my camera on stage and waited. It was a nicely sized venue with he capacity to hold a few hundred people I’d say. The stage was pretty big too, could have fit a large band. There was another artist playing that night, Katarzia, and I had wrongly assumed she would be first. Only later I learned that she is quite popular in Slovakia so of course she was the main act and rightfully so, but more on that later. To my left I spotted a woman I’d seen the night before as well, wearing an Árstíðir T-Shirt and just as excited as I was. 🙂

The guys stepped on stage and once again started with ‘SSDD’. I immediately noticed how good the sound was at this venue and had high hopes for the concert. I liked the song even better than the previous night. It might become a favorite yet. For ‘Wine’ I had to take my camera to safety, because he chose to unplug his guitar and stand right in front of me. 😀 I love the song this way, it sounds so much more fragile. the audience stayed quiet and really listened too. I would have guessed most had come to see Katarzia, but if they had they were still willing to give the support act a chance

During these two songs the e-String on Ragnar’s guitar broke. He decided to play the rest of the show with five strings only and later joked that he still had one more string than David. 😀 Before announcing ‘Deva’ he introduced David and himself. He started fiddling with the guitar effects without noticing that it was still unplugged. A sound guy came running and plugged it back in, noting that it comes in handy. He noted that usually technical failures early in the show meant it was going to be a good one. I smiled, knowing how true that often is.

The violin on ‘Deva’ has a haunting quality that I like. I have loved the lyrics to the song from the start, but the music felt somehow unfinished for me. I’m pretty sure this is not going to be the final incarnation, but it Is a beautiful one. <3 Ragnar joked about playing with five strings was like having lost a limb that you can still feel but not use. He looked at the setlist afterwards and David told him ‘Bravery’ was next, but he decided to play ‘Dozen’ first and invited San (sp?) on stage to sing with him. she seemed nervous so they talked a little before the song and he told us the story of how it became a duet. I always enjoy the song, because it is different with every singer. San did a lovely job and the singing sounded very close to the original to my ears. Ragnar sang a bit lower than usual though. I liked that too. Musically the song has stayed the same, no violin here. we had to imagine the sixth string during the little guitar interlude in the song or buy the album to hear it he told us. 🙂

‘Bravery’ came with the story of Jägermeister Vanilla which still makes me laugh. It changes every time too. Needless to say the song was great. I love the violin and David’s harmony singing as well. <3 Ragnar said that we came here to sing, not to listen to music as we thought so I was expecting ‘Relations’, but it was ‘Southern Nights’ they played. When they started I smiled, because he never told us what he wanted us to sing. He got around to it when we reached the first chorus though and it took us a few tries to get it right, but then it worked well. I already remembered some of the lyrics, but not enough yet.

Everything about the show was beautiful and totally different from the previous night. They were both great, but not only did the setlist differ, the venue had a whole different vibe. I had not been sure I’d enjoy this one, because I was way too tired and cold when I got there. However, the moment they started to play all that was forgotten. It was one of those concert where I just fell into the music and lived there for as long as it lasted, loving every minute of it. <3

‘Urges’ was next and then San was back on stage for ‘Petals’. She mastered it beautifully. Again, there were no violin additions to the song. Before they started, the guitar needed to be tuned, so Ragnar asked her to tell a joke while he was busy, but they just ended up chatting and came up with an album title in the process: ‘Wine and broken Strings’. Maybe there is a collaboration in the future? 😉 The previous day I had feared the duets might be off the setlist for good and was really happy to have them back. Especially ‘Petals’ is really close to my heart. <3

We had already reached the last song in the set with ‘Scar’ and I wondered where time had gone. I let David’s brilliant violin playing carry me and even forgot to sing along for a while. The song has always been one of my favorites and I thought it was already perfect, but with the violin it is even better. It just rose and rose to a stunning, powerful end. What a great song to end a set with.

Ragnar asked Bartek how many songs he had time for in the encore and the answer was two. We learned that ‘Needle and Thread’ came into being, because of Ragnar’s ex girlfriend buying or making all his clothes for him and he got reminded of that every time he looked into the mirror. It is an amazing song, especially in the current incarnation. I’m glad he likes it so much he plays it every night. Like most nights, ‘Sleep now’ was last and the guys walked both off stage to play the song amongst the audience. It was great.

I went for a quick hug and chat before we all watched Katarzia perform. She was awesome and even though I did not understand 90 % of her lyrics, some of it transcended. The music was nicely varied and never got boring. She also seemed very nice . Early on she even played an English song, saying she had never played it, but anted to so the guys could at least understand some of her lyrics. He concert was lovely and many people sang along too. 🙂

Afterwards we hung out, I got to meet K., the woman in the Árstíðir T-Shirt and we talked a lot while we waited. The night ended with drinks and good conversations with the guys and a group of local people. With a big smile on my face I made it home around 3:30 in the morning. It was a brilliant night and a brilliant weekend that could not have been any better.

pictures of this concert

Ragnar Poland/Slovakia tour winter 2018: 2 gigs down, 5 to go

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
Deva
Dozen
Bravery
Southern Nights
Urges
Petals
Scar

Needle and Thread
Sleep now

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