In the twilight between the now and what came before

Ragnar Ólafsson – Klub Firlej, Wrocław; March 2nd, 2018

Ever since Árstíðir had played in Wrocław back in the summer of 2013 I had wanted to go back to that beautiful city, but did not get a chance until now. It made me really happy to be able to walk those streets once again. It made me even happier that I got to see an amazing concert there. Despite Ragnar being hungover and tired as he said at the beginning, everything came together beautifully and he and David played a great show that night. It was exactly what I had hoped for. 🙂

It was a beautiful and sunny winter’s day that I spent relaxing and sightseeing before showing up at the venue way too early as usual. Luckily the doors were open and I did not have to wait outside in -12 degrees. Got a tea from the bar, heard sound check, said a quick hello to Ragnar and waited, then scored the perfect seat at front row center. The stage was a nice size, the lights had looked good earlier and the sound was great too. What more could I want?

People arrived late, i.e. a lot later than I got there, but by the time the guys stepped on stage the room was almost full and everyone looked at the stage expectantly. I wanted this to be a good concert, thinking if enough people came it would not be the last one in this city. I also felt the guys could use a little kick since they both seemed a bit tired at this point of the tour. Luckily, it turned out to be just what I had hoped for. 🙂

They started with the usual slight delay and everything about this concert was right from the start. The instruments sounded crisp and clear, the lights suited the songs perfectly and Ragnar sang a bit lower than usual which worked great. From the very first song everything seemed more powerful somehow. I was still rediscovering the songs with the violin and for some I had the feeling they were trying new things every night. 🙂

After ‘Wine’ Ragnar thanked the audience for being so quiet and really listening to those fragile songs. He was right, they were exceptionally quiet. ‘Deva’ was exceptional that night and really had me under a spell until Ragnar announced “On the violin: David Ra.” Ra? Wait, what? Is that a new nick name? Anyway, it broke the spell and made me grin. The violin solo was brilliant though. 🙂

‘Dozen’ was next with local singer Julia Skrobek. The duets are a surprise every night and usually a nice one. I love how each singer makes the songs her own. Some sound quite close to the album version, some far from it, but each one is interesting and many are great. This one was. <3 I had not heard them play ‘War’ since my first concert on this tour so I was happy to have it back on the setlist. I really liked David’s harmony singing. 🙂 Usually, around this point of the show Ragnar asks if we like stories, but this time he got right to the point and asked if we liked Jägermeister Vanilla. The response was laughter so I’d take that as a “no”. 😉 He told us about camping and peeing in a circle because grizzly bears don’t like the smell of urine. David quipped it might be even worse if it smelled of Jägermeister Vanilla. Might be true, yet bad drinks obviously inspire great music. ‘Bravery’ is one of my favorites and it sounds even better live than it does on the album. The song is always amazing and works great with the violin, just as it does with a second guitar. 😀

For ‘Relations’ he told us he has no fucking clue what the song is about, but if we had any theories we could share them after the show. Everyone was OK with singing along and it worked nicely right away. People are usually reluctant at first, but not this time. It was lovely. Ragnar’s voice sounded a bit rough this time, fitting well with the mood of the song. ‘Southern Nights’ brought more travel stories about going down the Mississippi but without Jägermeister Vanilla this time. 😉 The song has grown on me since I first heard it and it was one of my favorites that night. It just puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it now.

There was no break before ‘Urges’ and having the carefree ‘Southern Nights’ and the thoughtful Urges’ back to back works well. It feels like two sides to the same story somehow, even though the topics are quite different. Julia joined Ragnar again for a beautiful rendition of ‘Petals’ with David taking a break and watching from the sidelines. I cannot state often enough how much I love that song. <3 Like every night, ‘Scar’ was the final song in the set, complete with the observation how terrible it is to listen to a Banjo for 5 minutes. This night, it was absolutely perfect. We all agreed after that it was the best version of Scar so far. Amazing singing, amazing violin, everything fit. Wow! All the cheers after were well deserved.

The audience loudly demanded more. They were good listeners and also showed their appreciation. It was fun to be part of it. 🙂 Ragnar told us how he hates buying clothes and rather than doing that he’d write a song about it, just like he’d write a song about being hungry before getting some food, noting that “musicians are weird that way” to which David added “skinny people with shitty clothes”. A great version of ‘Needle and Thread’ followed. It is not only their favorite song at the moment, but mine as well. He asked if we wanted one more song and after we agreed specified “only one?” Of course not! Eventually we got Ask the Slave’s great murder ballad ‘Sleep now’, but as an example of murder ballads they played Nick Cave’s ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ first. David claims not to know the song, but does a great job improvising on violin nonetheless. They walked into the audience for ‘Sleep now’, which is always great. I love both songs and like it when the show ends that way.

The night was not over yet by a long shot. Many people came to chat, I told the guys how great the show was and Ragnar and I agreed that lightning might have struck at that one. 🙂 After one drink there we ended up at a bar with a few people and had a great time. Sadly, I also had an early train to catch the next morning so I said goodbye not long after midnight. It was fun, but I needed sleep. We’ll share more drinks and stories another time.

Ragnar Poland/Slovakia tour winter 2018: 4 gigs down, 3 to go


Southern Nights

Needle And Thread
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

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