My garden, my living room, my friends

Magnús Þór 70th birthday concert – Háskolabíó, Reykjavik; November 15th and 16th, 2018

The first time I ever heard of Magnús Þór was when he joined Árstíðir for their Christmas concert in 2016. He is a legend in Iceland, but with most of his songs being Icelandic, I doubt many people outside the country know who he is. I like what I heard though and when they announced an album together I was looking forward to hearing it. It came with a Karolina Fund campaign and one of the rewards was a ticket to Magnús Þór’s 70th birthday / Gardurinn minn release concert. “Good idea!” I thought and chose exactly this. Therefore I found myself at Háskolabíó on a rainy Thursday night, not at all prepared for what was about to come, but happy to be there.

Talked to Ragnar before the gig and he told me to expect a musical feast spanning songs from the 60ies until today, soft and loud with many different guests. That sounded even more interesting 🙂 The ticket I got was sixth row center with a perfect view of the stage, because it was exactly the right height. I had brought my camera, but decided not to use it, since the entire concert was being filmed and shown on TV and a distracting “clack” noise was not what they needed, especially during the first, more quiet half of the show. As we walked in, a guy was sitting at the piano and playing until everyone was seated. The stage was set up like a living room with lamps everywhere and some comfortable chairs. On the right side sat Jenný, Magnús wife, knitting for the duration of the show. It was like he was sitting at home and had invited his friends over to celebrate.

The venue was sold out and everyone was waiting for the show to start. We clapped as Magnús walked out, then settled back into our chairs and watched the evening unfold. The first song was just Magnús on guitar and the piano player. The beauty of it all drew me in right away. I got lost in the sound of the music and his slightly rough voice. I did not understand the words, but I felt them. 🙂 He announced guests and out walked Páll Óskar to much applause. I’d never heard any of his music, but I knew he is quite the Pop star in Iceland and recognized him instantly. Magnús told a story about him that must have been funny, but of course all that went past me. I wished I understood, it would have made the concert even better. The two of them performed a song together that Ragnar told me later was a song Páll Óskar is known for, but not everyone knows that Magnús wrote it. It even seemed slightly familiar to me, but I have no idea where I could have heard it before. Either way, it was lovely.

Next to join him on stage was Þórunn Antónía and I heard him introduce her as “dottir minn” (my daughter). She, too, is a well known Pop star and sang one beautiful song with him, called ‘Play me’. I was quite surprised that it was in English. Magnús welcomed Jóhann Helgason to the stage who joined him on guitar for another song in English. And here I had been thinking he only wrote in Icelandic. After one song together Magnús Magnússon played drums with them. His as the first familiar face I saw on that stage after Magnús Þór. He has played drums with Árstíðir a few times. In that constellation they played ‘Blue Jean Queen’ together and in-between Magnús was telling stories. The whole feeling of it all reminded me very much of being at a Reinhard Mey concert, even though he is usually on stage alone. It must have been the storytelling.

Árstíðir walked out to great cheers and got to perform ‘Jólabæn einstæðingsins’ on their own, just all three singing into one microphone. It was very beautiful, especially because each one of them had a small solo part. It reminded me of everything I love about them. <3 They joined Jóhann and Magnús for a few songs. One of them, ‘Álfar’ they had already performed together on TV. With five voices singing the concert gradually grew a bit louder. One more song,’Sail’ on was in English, the others Icelandic. I loved hearing how their voices harmonized and it amazed me just how different these songs were. It sure was a wide range of material. By that time it had stopped bothering me that I didn’t understand and I just let the music guide me, even closed my eyes from time to time. There is no other description for this than beautiful and I was so happy to be there, felt lucky that I got to witness it.

After ‘Sumir Dagar’ Árstíðir left and Ragga Gröndal joined Magnús on stage. They joked about how to combine their names into “Magnheiður” or “Ragnus” then sang ‘Húmar að’ together. Her clear voice rang out across the room, harmonizing beautifully with Magnús rough one. Everyone was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. <3 Magnús got flowers and other birthday presents and Ragga made a speech that ended in much cheering from the crowd. Together they played one more song, the wonderful ‘Ást’, before they sent us off to a break.

The second half of the concert was much more powerful than the first and gradually grew louder from beginning to end. I liked it even better than the first half. Árstíðir were back on stage and Magnús as well as Daníel talked about their collaboration album “Gardurinn minn” for a bit. Again, I wished I understood, but soon I settled for just listening to the music again and not worrying about the words. Magnús Magnússon was back on drums and they performed several songs together, ‘Ein róandi’ and ‘Skaplegur fatnaður’, two of my favorites on the album was among them. 😀 In-between songs, there was a lot of talk and some laughter in response.

In the end of their set Magnús spoke about his album “Music for Jenny” with Tómas Jónsson and played a song I didn’t recognize, but really enjoyed. Afterwards he received a medal of some kind and some more birthday presents.  Another guest, Sverrir Bergmann, walked out, they talked a bit and then he sang ‘Þar sem hjartað slær’. First he was on his own, but then he was joined by Fjallabræður a men’s choir. If I recall correctly, I counted over 50 people. It was magnificent! Sverrir’s voice alone was beautiful, but backed by the choir it was something else entirely, so good it drove me to tears. He left after this one song, but Fjallabræður stayed for the rest of the concert. With the choir, more musicians had joined them, including a second drum, a violin, a guitar and a bass.

After much talking and more laughter, Magnús and Fjallabræður sang ‘Freyja’ together, then he greeted Jónas Sig, who joined for a few songs. A memorable one was ‘ísland er land þitt’ where everyone in the audience joined in and with this song and the last two most of the evenings guests stood with Fjallabræður to sing together. If I’d known the words, I know I would have sung along too. It was a glorious celebration of music at the end of which everyone in the audience stood for standing ovations. What a night!

The following day I was back for more. The first concert had sold out and they added another one. This time around I was front row, which was great, but at times the lamp decoration was obstruction my view a bit. It didn’t matter though, I enjoyed it just as much. The setlist remained the same the second time around and the guest were the same except for Páll Óskar not showing up. There were no presents this time and I believe some of the stories were different. I especially remember Magnús talking about a jacket, but I have no idea what that was all about. It must have been very funny though. Jenný was there again too of corse, knitting a beanie she gave Magnús during the second half of the show. The same had happened the previous night as well. It was totally worth seeing again and I am glad I went to both concerts.

pictures of this concert

Setlist

?? (Magnús alone)
Ást við fyrstu sýn (Páll Óskar)
Play me (Þórunn Antónía)
Mary Jane (with Jóhann Helgason)
Blue Jean Queen (with Jóhann Helgason & Magnús Magnússon)
Jólabæn einstæðingsins (Árstíðir)
Álfar (with Jóhann Helgason & Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Sail on (with Jóhann Helgason & Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Þú átt mig ein (with Jóhann Helgason & Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Sumir Dagar (with Jóhann Helgason & Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Húmar að (with Ragnheiður aka Ragga Gröndal)
Ást (with Ragga Gröndal)

Garðurinn minn (with Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Ein róandi (with Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Eir ér sú vísa (with Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Skaplegur fatnaður (with Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Málverk (with Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Nýr dagur (Árstíðir & Magnús Magnússon)
Þar sem hjartað slær (Sverrir Bergmann & Fjallabræður)
Freyja (Fjallabræður)
Ef ég gæti hygsana minna (Fjallabræður & Jónas Sig)
ísland er land þitt (Fjallabræður)
Og þess vegna erum við hér í kvöld  (Fjallabræður & Jónas Sig)
Jörðin sem ég ann (Fjallabræður)

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