Árstíðir – Húrra, Reykjavik; August 24th, 2018
When the CD release gig for ‘Nivalis’ was announced I just happened to be in Iceland on vacation. It was a nice belated birthday surprise. I immediately bought a ticket, fondly remembering the ‘Hvel’ release concerts and dreaming of hearing the full album in order with a real drummer. When I saw the flight prices and hotel costs I inwardly started bitching about the announcement being so late, but who was I kidding? I would have done anything to be there. Little did I know that it would feel somewhat like a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy much of it, but I had expected a lot and the whole thing being over in one hour with only 8 of 13 songs from the album being played was not it. To be fair, I loved the string players, Magnús, the drummer, was brilliant, and everyone made the best of the time they had on stage. It just wasn’t long enough. Did I want something as amazing as the Hvel release concerts? Of course I did. Would I have wanted to miss this one? Hell no!
I flew in the night before the concert and had a full day to explore Reykjavik. The weather was gorgeous, so I spent much time walking. When I passed the venue in the afternoon and decided to take a picture of the sign above the door, I happened to run into Gunnar, who was just arriving for soundcheck. We hugged briefly and went our separate ways. See you later! With Café Rósenberg no longer in existence (I miss you!) the guys had picked Húrra bar for their release gig. It is more of a Rock venue with standing room only, but I trusted them to make it work. When I arrived about an hour before the gig I met A. and her friend and we passed the time chatting. Just before 9:00 I decided to stand by the doors, said hello to a few people and waited, then scored my usual spot at the front. I had thought about filming the gig, but it was absolutely impossible to find a space to do that. Thus, I’d have to enjoy it without preserving it for the future.
Around 10, Support act Vasi stated. She’s a Russian/American singer with a great voice. Her set was short. five or six songs, some on piano with Gunnar on guitar, drums and for the last one Unnur on Cello. I liked the music, but it didn’t speak to me. Very listenable songs that left me feeling nothing at all. So I kinda shrugged it of, waiting fo the concert I’d really come for.
Árstíðir were supposed to start at 10:30, but of course that didn’t happen. I was expecting them at 11 and was rather surprised when they actually walked on stage 15 minutes before that. 😉 It took a moment for them to get ready, but then they went right into ‘While this Way’. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that peopel didn’t immediately realize the concert was starting and kept talking or due to Gunnar being nervous, but the start of the song got completely lost in the mix. Things got considerably better from there, but for the first few songs I had the feeling the guys were unusually nervous about presenting their new material. Thus, I smiled at them and nodded, indicating “it’s going fine”. It did, I enjoyed hearing the music and after a while the sound improved too. Granted, Húrra is not an ideal venue for this type of music. Drums or not, a Rock Club with standing room only is not the best palce I imagined for hearing ‘Nivalis’ live for the first time.
With ‘Lover’ they found their place and their pace, leaving behind any insecurities and getting better with every song. Ragnar smiled at me, knowing the song is one of my favorites and I smiled right back, enjoying the moment. This was the concert I had been hoping for, Hearing the songs in all their glory (i.e. with a drummer and full strings) in the same order as they are on the album. It was perfect. 🙂 ‘Please help me’ was the first new song I had not heard live yet and it was lovely. Softer than the first two it was a nice contrast. For the first time it occurred to me how sad the lyrics are. The whole album has an undertone of sadness, that feels deeper than the usual melancholia of ist predecessors. It sure works for me. 🙂
‘Entangled’ was next. Another song I’d loved from the first and that only seems to be getting better. So far, everything felt right about this concert, despite the less than ideal venue. Sure, the start was a little bumpy, but they had not yet had a tour to practice all the new songs and some of them had never been played. It was going along nicely, I enjoyed it and just hearing a new setlist made me very happy. Thus, I was quite surprised when the next song wasn’t ‘Like Snow’ as it is on the album, but ‘Þar Sem Enginn Fer’. I liked that song and I’d been wanting to hear it again, but should the album not have been played in order? At least that was my expectation from the ‘Hvel’ release concerts in 2015. I figured they might just have decided hat a different order might work better live and shrugged it off.
Next, however, was ‘Mute’ where it should have been ‘Circus’ followed by ‘Órói’ – I am sure the question mark must have been showing on my face at that point. Still, I thought that maybe they’d group the slower songs together somewhere, maybe sing into one mic like they did at Castlefest, even though there was no indication of that happening and an acoustic set was not suited for this place. Either way, I still had hope of hearing the full album and I like ‘Mute’ too. The drums were a great addition to all the songs, much better live than just having them recorded.
Of oourse they spoke Icelandic only and I had no idea what they were talking about, but it didn’t bother me. At one point, Ragnar talked about Magnús Þór Sigmundsson and people cheered. I wondered if he said something about the album they are making together. At Castlefest he had mentioned a new album in October and I had taken that for a joke, but I’d forgotten about their collaboration at that time. When I saw Magnús Þór perform with them at the Christmas concert in 2016 I had loved his voice and his songs, even thouh I had no clue what they were about. I could feel them and that was all that mattered. So whenever this album sees the light of day, I’ll happily listen to it. <3
The continued with ‘In the Wake of you’, one of the tunes I really like on the album. I loved the easy-going Pop feel of the melody that make a nice contrast to the lyrics. ‘Passion’ followed and was the last song from ‘Nivalis’ they were going to play, but I did not know that yet and was still hoping for a few more. The audience, or at least some of them, wasn’t very attentive though. I turned around a few times during the softer songs, because people behind me were talking loudly and gave them my best “Shut the fuck up!” – look. Luckily it worked. I’m used to people getting up for drinks during their shows in Iceland, but talking so much it disturbs others? That was a first. Maybe it was the bar atmosphere of the venue. Most of the time I managed to ignore and concentrate on the music. After all, I’d come to listen.
Funnily enough part of the audience finally seemed to wake from their not so attentive state when the band started playing old songs. Not that I don’t like ‘Himinvhel’, ‘Things you said’ or ‘Someone who cares’, but I’d come for the new songs. A. said she didn’t like this version of ‘Someone who cares’, but I didn’t mind. I just would have preferred to hear ‘Like Snow’ or ‘Conviction’ or ‘Circus’ instead of those three songs from ‘Hvel’. It was fine when they played the older stuff, until I realized they were not going to play the remainder of ‘Nivalis’.
We got to hear ‘Shades’ too, dedicated to someone next to me. It had all of the usual power and I enjoyed watching the string players especially as I always do. Strangely, it wasn’t the last song this time, but they added one more: ‘Fridpaegingin’. It is a great song and I loved hearing it with a drummer, but it felt somewhat random in the end. When the band walked off I was sure they would come back and we cheered for them too, but almost immediately after they were gone, the house music was switched on at full volume and it was clear that this was it. The whole concert had barely lasted an hour.
Considering the ‘Hvel’ release concerts had both been around 90 minutes long with the full album being played and a good mix of old songs after an intermission, this left me somewhat disappointed. I loved the ‘Nivalis’ songs I got to hear and didn’t care much that the sound wasn’t as great as it could have been, but the whole concert was way too short for me. I don’t regret going though, I know I would have hated not being there. 🙂
I would have loved to talk with the guys afterwards, but it was impossible due to the loud music. Stood outside with A. for a while, debating what we though. Then she left and I went back in to at least say goodbye to the guys. Only saw Gunnar and Daníel briefly, but talked with Ragnar for a while . He told me the venue didn’t allow for more than an hour so they’d decided to not play all of the songs. Not what I wanted to hear, but understandable. 😉 Soon it was time for me to go and I got a big hug before I left. I’m sure eventually I’m going to hear all of the songs live and until then I’ll be dreaming of the next tour. 🙂
While this Way
Please help me
Þar Sem Enginn Fer
In the Wake of you
Things you said
Someone who cares