And her voice is like a river that tears your soul apart

Svavar Knútur – Hot Jazz Club, Münster; September 4th, 2018

Once again I was back at the Hot Jazz Club in Münster to see Svavar Knútur perform. As usual I didn’t know what I would get, but I knew I would be entertained and that was all I asked for. I got plenty more. Lovely songs, funny stories and beautiful memories that I had not expected. It was all good. 🙂

The first thing we learned from Svavar that night was how you make Gemeinschaft sound like a dirty word and that sure wasn’t the only thing. 😉 Münster was the first stop on his tour and he told us he was stressed out about it and wanted some kind of a traditional beginning with three songs about his past, his present and his future. The first one was ‘Clementine’ which is always a great start and was played on guitar, not ukulele. It was followed by my favorite ‘Emotional Anorexic’. Of course it made me cry and I was OK with that. Songs that move me are never wrong. This one also carries a great number of memories, but I won’t get into these here. When I looked over to the other side of the stage, where people where also sitting, I saw a guy wipe his eyes, which made me smile and think “I’m not the only one”.

Song number three was ‘A Humble Hymn’, a song about accepting that you will make mistakes in your life. I whole heartedly agreed that a life without mistakes would be boring. His explanation that being in pain may be great for musicians, but maybe not so much for other professions made me laugh, but you had to be there and watch him pantomime to really appreciate it. 😉 It was very funny. At the end he had us all sing along too, taking the lead and letting us follow. It was great. In between he told us stories about making do without washing machines on tour and other useful things. It was an educational night. 😉

We learned that Svavar worked as a journalist before he became a troubadour and he told us how he was sent to review a concert by Kris Kristofferson. It must have been amazing and inspiring. He joked how unusual it is for Icelanders to cry and Kris moved him so much he did, because he put his heart out there for all to see. Then he played us his version of ‘Help me make it through the night’ which provided me with all sorts of flashbacks and memories from a certain Pain of Salvation tour in 2013. I had trouble keeping a straight face. 😀

For the first new song of the night, ‘Morgunn’ Svavar shared a few details about how cool it is to work with other musicians, who understand your weird instructions. The song as such was lovely. He told us how his new album has five new songs and four that he “repainted”, because he was never happy with them. Since he recorded it in the summer in Iceland there was a lot of rain in the background they had to cut out. 😀 We learned that some of his songs together tell one story and that one day he may put the all on a playlist. I’d like to hear that. ‘Undir birkitré’ followed. There was someone sitting behind me, who sang along just like I did. I loved it! Svavar let us know that he is the broccoli in the garden of music – who might be just what you need. We sure could use some more singing as a choir and we did 😀

He told us how Canadians are super nice and shared a bullshit story he told two Canadian girls he met inside a glacier in Iceland after a wedding he played there. Apparently he played the Game of Thrones song and nobody died. 😉  The whole story was hilarious, especially the part about the girls believing everything he said :D. We got to hear one more new song, called ‘Lady Winter’ about living in Iceland and his relationship with his country. “And her voice is like a river that tears your soul apart” – referring to the country I can sure hear that call when I am there. The song was beautiful and fitting to send us off to a break.

The first part had been about one hour long, so I expected another hour at the most. I was wrong. He took a long break, but once he returned to the stage it seemed like he never wanted to leave. 🙂 During thr break I bough his new album, went for a quick hug and a chat. <3

When he returned, Svavar told us how much he loves coming to Münster and he seemed a lot more relaxed at the start of the second half. He sat down at the piano and played us ‘Goodbye my lovely’ noting how breakups are good for you. This song has grown on my a lot since I first heard it and I enjoyed it a lot. He spoke a little bit about Gütersloh and the theater work he is doing there. He joked how he was almost naked in the first one of these plays, but not the current one.  I’ve seen ‘Loreley – Sinking Ships’ in Recklinghausen and I loved it. So much fun! I’d also seen ‘Island One Way’, but not the second one.

Svavar introduced ‘Brot’ as a song he wrote on the 20th anniversary of his father’s death and described how it was his way of dealing with the disaster that killed his father and 19 other people and coping with this. He added how he always feels bad when people joke about Brot meaning bread in German and then he has to tell them the song is about hardship and death. I’ve always loved the power of it and even though I dont understand the words I can feel the song. <3

He taught us to never say Skøl in Iceland, mimicking for us what would happen if you did. It somehow didn’t seem far fetched at all. 😉 Next was ‘Tiger and Bear’ in the re-recorded version, because the first album was recorded in such a rush, just before the first Germany tour. Before he played it he told us how he does not only love Janosch, but also Otfried Preußler and how he came to read the audio book for Räuber Hotzenplotz. 🙂 ‘Tiger and Bear’ of course is always great. It is a fan favorite and it is not hard to understand why.

Svavar talked about Icelandic weather and climate change, comparing our hot summer to eating too much space cake and dedicated the next song to the end of the world. It was a great version of ‘While the World burns’. Afterwards he moved the mic stand, so the people sitting by the side of the stage could see more of him and mentioned how once at Cafe Galao in Stuttgart some of the audience had to stand behind him on stage. He then played us an Icelandic cover song about deserted and fallen cities in Iceland by Böðvar Guðmundsson called ‘Næturljóð úr fjörðum’ (Nocturne from the Fjords). The song is on Svavar’s ‘Amma’ album. It was great and not for the first time I wished I actually understood Icelandic.

Since we were at the Hot Jazz Club he wanted to do a Jazz Song by The Ink Spots, a band he got to know through playing ‘Fallout’. He apologized for not having Ella Fitzgerald with him, who sings on the original song. Thus, he had to sing her part as well. 😀 While he was at it, he gave a little Elvis impression too. We learned that he sees the audience in colors and the color he sees determines which songs he plays. That sounds like a great way of choosing songs to me. 🙂 Long after the song about the first breakup we got the one about the first love, ‘Ölduslóð’ – I loved the delicate picking on the ukulele.

Because Svavar feels so comfortable in Münster he wanted to share more cover versions that matter to him. He spoke about his Joni Mitchel phase and played ‘A Case of you’. I’m not that familiar with her works, so I’m not sure I’d ever heard the song before, but I enjoyed it very much and it made me think I should look into her music again. This concert was amazing on so many levels, I don’t think it comes across as special as it was in my writing here. Absolutely everything was right and I felt totally content. I could have listened for hours. <3 ‘Baby would you marry me’ followed and got a nice and soft sing along going.

He played us a snipped of ABBA’s ‘When all is said and done’. That lead him to embracing his gay side and that he wants other men to embrace that side of them. He described it in funny detail, but sadly mostly the women clapped. Before ‘Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir’ he told us how, no matter which happy songs he plays, he almost always gets described as melancholic. That somehow lead him to Sigur Rós and turned into a funny story about his gig in Zurich and teaching the audience Icelandic pronunciation. 😛

Svavar asked us to sign up for his email list and shared the experience of making a tour announcement in German for once. There were also only a few songs left so he asked if he was forgetting a song or if someone didn’t get to hear their favorite. The woman who had been singing along asked for ‘Here comes the Hurting’ and I agreed. She also lent him a guitar pick and he was happy it was his favorite brand. First we got to hear ‘Girl from Vancouver’ and everyone joined in the sing-along this time. That’s how it should should be. 🙂 ‘The Hurting’ was the final song. It might have been the best version of that song I have ever heard and they have all been great. It was dark and powerful and absolutely to the point. Svavar really rocked it, eyes closes, mouth open in belting out the lyrics and strumming his guitar like crazy. I loved it!

We clapped and cheered and called him back to the stage. He treated us to an awesome version of ‘Leipzig’ while balancing his ukulele on top of his guitar and playing both (if not at the same time 😉 ). While it is not true that he hasn’t done it in years, it always makes me happy and the story he tells with it seems to get better every time. It included snippets of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’, Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, Falco’s ‘Rock me Amadeus’ and The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter. Even funnier than these covers was the story he told in-between. Once again, you had to be there! 😀 We still did not have enough and manage to call Svavar back to the stage one more time. His final gift was a mix of Robin the Frog’s ‘Halfway up the stairs’ and Daniel Johnson’s’s ‘True Love will find you in the End’, but before it was time for one last story. 🙂 We ended, however, with a final sing-along. Or so we thought…

Then we cheered so much, Svavar felt the need to return, sat down at the piano one last time and gave us Tom Wait’s ‘Innocent when you dream’, including a brain fart when he momentarily could not remember the words. It was a great rendition and yes, we got one more sing-along too. Wow, what a night!

The concert could not have ended any better. I missed my train and did not get home until 1 am, but it was so worth it. Svavar’s concerts are always great, but this one was truly magical. An uplifting night of beautiful tunes and stories that made my belly hurt from laughing. Afterwards I thanked him and hugged him again, feeling I could not put into words how much the evening had meant to me. It could not have been any more perfect.

pictures of this concert


Emotional Anorexic
Humble Hymn
Help me make it through the Night
Undir birkitré
Lady Winter

Goodbye my lovely
Tiger and Bear
While the World burns
Næturljóð úr fjörðum
Into each Life some Rain must fall
A Case of you
Baby would you marry me
Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir
Girl from Vancouver
The Hurting

Halfway up the Stairs / True Love will find you in the End
Innocent when you dream

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