Ragnar Ólafsson – Blues Club, Gdynia; November 19th, 2018
One day after the concert in Elbląg I found myself at the Blues Club in Gdynia to see Ragnar Ólafsson for the second night in a row. When I’d read the venue on the list of tour dates it made me smile, because there had been a concert scheduled on his very first tour of Poland that didn’t happen in the end. It felt like this was finally the rescheduled gig. The club was quite nice and the concert even better than the previous night. There may have been fewer and slightly less ethusiastic people, but both Ragnar and David were less tired and the performance was spot on. I loved it very much.
It all started with a trip from Elblag to Gdánsk where I was staying overnight. It was grey outside and after having lunch I didn’t feel like doing much so I rested at my hostel until it wa stime to catch a train to Gdynia. The cities are close and since I was flying home from Gdánsk it made much more sense to stay there. Anway, by the time I arrived in Gdynia it was already dark, so I grabbed some food on the way and arrived at the venue a littlle early. It did look closed and I could hear the guys sound checking, so I walked around for a bit before trying the door. It was open and sound check was almost over, so I waved to the guys and ordered a tea. they had home made cheese cake too, but that had to wait until later. 😉 Found myself a place at the front of the stage, said hello to the guys, waited. This time there was nobody I knew so I spent some time reading until the concert started. The background music before the gig was mostly Springsteen and made me happy.
“Dzień dobry!” were the only words Ragnar said before they started playing ‘SSDD’. It sounded great and once again I noticed just how much I love the violin in there. 🙂 He introduced thems and said it was the first tour in the north of Poland, pointing out they were closer to Scandinavia now so it felt more like home. David added there may be a Swedish word floating on the wind from time to time if you listened hard enough. They joked about the Polish words they had picked up on their tours so far. Next, Ragnar unplugged his guitar and stood on a chair to play ‘Wine’. It got really quiet in the room when he did and people listened. When the song ended, the lights were turned down completely and we all sat in the dark for a brief moment. It was perfect. <3
A squeeky floorboard on the stage brought some laughter before the next song, especially after David claimed it was actually not the stage, but just Ragnar. ‘Deva’, the song of hope was great. It will always have a special place in my heart. <3 They asked local singer Weronika on stage to join them for ‘Dozen’. We learned that she stepped in short notice, because her friend, who was supposed to sing that night, got sick. Ragnar mentioned how much he liked hearing his song interpreted differently every night. Weronika did it really well too. 🙂
The audience was appriciative and totally quiet during the songs. The sound carried well at the venue, which made it all the more enjoyable. I smiled at the story that belongs with ‘Bravery’, because it changes a little bit every night. essentially it is the same Information about traveling together, drinking and writing a song every night, but the details change or rather it changes regarding which details are emphasized. I never get tired of it and really, if bad drinks have such a great effect, maybe I shoudl take care that he gets more of them. 😉 It was a fun performance and when David missed his cue in the end of the song they just repeated it. 😀
Ragnar talked about his breakup album and how we live and learn every time we fuck up. I think he’s right that there are very few peopel who have never been heart-broken. Thus, ‘Urges’ resonates with people. It certainly does with me, because there are always things one could have said or done better, but we don’t realize it until much later. For the next song he invited us to sing and when he sang our part to us everyone laughed. It happens every time and in the end it still works out fine. People just need to get over their enitial shyness. It’s interestig to me how much ‘Relations’ has grown on me. I have always liked the lyrics, but in the beginning the song really didn’t work for me and now I’m enjoying it. It has eveolved so much since the early days. This night there was no piano so it was played on guitar. I like that just as well as the piano version and I love the violin part.
‘Muddy Waters’ took us to the break and I think I loved it even more than the previous night. It may not technically be a Blues, but the feel is right and it certainly sounds like one and it works great live. Considering we were at a Blues Club it was an especially good fit that night. 🙂 They could have probably sung the phone book though and I still would have love dit. It was one of those concerts where every song made me happy and the mood was just right. 🙂
After the break, Ragnar was back on the stage alone and asked us to sing in Icelandic with him. Everyone giggled when he explained the words “la la la” can mean anything. He continued that they work especially well in sad songs, because they are usually not used in those. It was the song he had written for his grandmother and played the previous night as well. This time he remembered all the words and it was even more beautiful than before, especially with the sing along. He explained that the lyric is a poem by Davíð Stefánsson, who was his grandmother’s favorite poet and how she’d always wanted him to write music for the poetry she loved, but he wasn’t a Songwriter while she was alive. He found it in a poetry book by her bed after she died and it was marked with a star so he wrote the music to it and performed it at her funural. That story made the song even more special.
Weronika joined him for ‘Petals’. I’d missed the song on the previous night’s setlist and was happy to have it back. Weronika’s Interpretation differed from most I’ heard so far, but I liked it too. She did it well. 🙂 As David joined him again they joked about meeting online. Ragnar explained how Bartek asked if he knew a violin player and the next day a friend told him about David so he decided to book him for a tour without having met him. They played a great Version of ‘The Message’ for us. It is currently my favorite and I loved hearing it again.
Before ‘Walls’ he explained how he liked walls and the band The Doors, “but Windows is not my thing, I am more Mac OS”. David replied “WHAT? Where did you go just now?” I could not help but laugh. The song was absolutely perfect. It sounds sad or rather melancholic, but it always makes me happy. As promised before the song, he talked more about walls after, specifically bricks. It fit, since the venue had brick walls and lead to joked about all the thins they do not have in Iceland.Tthen we heard all about walking around in New York City and all ist brick buildings. It had been a while since I’d heard ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ so it was great to have it back. I love everything about that song and it only got better with the violin. 🙂
Ragnar told us about the different bands he plays in and said he’d play a metal song which, David added that it was kind of a creepy, guerilla metal song. This time he did not walk around for ‘Sleep now’, but stayed on sage. It always makes me smile, not only because it is a great song, but because if people are gonna go and check out Aske the Slave because of that song they are in for a surprise. Well, he gave a fair warning, saying all the other songs are to weird to be played on the radio. If the whole story of metal bands being famous for only their ballads wasn’t enough of a hint. 😉
‘Southern Nights’ was announced a a happy song and lead to some discussion about Icelanders doing pretty much every song in minor, even their football chant. they asked us to sing along and this time they made a show of asking specific people if they were singing along. Yes, we did and it was pretty nice too. 😀 ‘Scar’ was the last song and David asked for some extra delay on the violin. They’d done that the previous night too and it fit the song well. While David was getting ready, Ragnar told us a blond joke. 😀 Anyway, the song is always great to end a show with. They really got into it and rocked as much as you can with just a guitar and a violin. 😉
We called them back to the stage right away and got ‘Needle and Thread’ as the final song. Like the previous night, Ragnar did the first verse acoustically first. It was great overall. Of course I wanted them to play more, but this was it. All good things have to end eventually. 🙂
Bartek and David were in a hurry after the show since David had a train to catch so I said goodbye quickly and they left. Ragnar, however was staying to join Árstíðir the following day and tour with them. Only few people came to talk so he sat with me for some time and we got a chance to catch up. I even had some homemade cheese cake with my tea. It was a lovely ending to the evening and nobody was bothered by the fact that I didn’t leave right away. Eventually we said hugged goodbye and I returned to Gdánsk for the night.
Örlög (based on a poem by Davíð Stefánsson)
Every Brick in Manhattan
Needle And Thread