All of our sorrows and all of our pain will make like the snowflakes and melt in the rain

Svavar Knútur – Societätstheater, Dresden; September 11th, 2021

The concert in Dresden was completely different from the previous one in Weimar, not so much in setlist, but in overall mood and atmosphere. The theater was sold out, the audience was amazing and Svavar seemed very relaxed. Like in Gera, a month before, Conny was a guest singer. It was a wonderful night – einfach zauberhaft!

It’s a relatively short trip from Weimar to Dresden, so I could sleep in (which these days means 8 am), get a good breakfast and make my way to the train station around noon. Arrived in Dresden in the early afternoon, checked in and met up with Conny for a chat. We even had rooms next to each other. When she left for soundcheck I had some time to relax before heading to the concert. When I arrived I did not yet know it was going to take place at the theater, because it was supposed to be outside originally. The organizers had feared it would rain though and moved it. It was a beautiful location and the stage was nicely decorated with a carpet and some lamps.

Svavar immediately like the theater too and started with telling us that this was his longest tour ever and how he had played 37 gigs in Iceland to prepare for this, mostly in small villages. I laughed especially hard when he said hey were not “Of Monsters and Men” people but “JaJa Ding Dong”-people. 😀 Thus, the first sog was to honor the fishing villages and his grandmother by playing a song about the Ocean.

He told us how he rediscovered ‘Your Love was Death to me’ because one of his friends covered it at a concert. Before he played it he told us that hope is central to everything he does, but once was in the mood to wrote a sad song and this one, about a toxic relationship, came out. Sad as it may be, I really like it. To recover from the sadness we got a happy song next, ‘Morgúnn’, “my favorite time of day… to sleep through” and we got to hear about everything he loves about mornings. 🙂

We heard about the re-discovery of another old song through the zoom concerts he played and musings about his father. ‘Hard Things’ was just as lovely as the previous day and I was happy to hear it once again. 🙂 Again he talked about differences between languages again, from trees to mountains and he showed us how songs about mountains would sound in different languages by making them up on the spot. Also, apparently Iceland has 37 words for states of being drunk. 😉 ‘Undir Birkitré’ lead to a great sing-along and the we got to hear ‘Tiger and Bear’. Again he fucked it up, first with the capo on the wrong fret and then momentarily forgetting the lyrics. I’m sorry for laughing, but it was really funny. 😀

He spoke about enjoying to stay home during Covid times and having time to do things like paint. Somehow we got to the ‘Song about the Raven’ that he rewrote and he told us about the lyrics and how he loves raves, because they are friendly and socialist creatures. Then he talked about his raven friends and how he speaks to them – so I guess he does not only speak whale but raven too? 😉

‘The Curtain’ was next and I could see everything he describes there as well as feel it. This is exactly what it is like when you miss someone and everything reminds you of them. He told us a story about playing at Kulturbrauerei in Berlin and hearing about “3 Gs” (geimpft, genesen, getested), so he joked about how everything yu have done in Germany starts with “ge-” like gegessen (eaten), getrunken (drank) or gesungen (sung) so “3 Gs” is nothing special. It could be compared to “3 Eds” in English: test-ED, vaccinate-ED, recover-ED. Even though I consider the “3 Gs” very important, I can still laugh about this. 😀 However, the “3 W” (Weltschmetz, Waldeinsamkeit and Wanderlust” are much more interesting and so the last song before the break was ‘Wanderlust’.

The second half of the show started with ‘Vetrarsól’ and heard about the winter sun in Iceland only coming up over the horizon to quickly say “Fuck you Iceland” and then leave again, while in summer the sun is like the one party guest who does not want to leave. 😀 He is so right about the winter sun being beautiful. Svavar told us about toying with the idea of making an album with folk songs in different languages and how different languages have heir own melody. To show us, he played Brahms’ ‘In stiller Nacht’

Next it was Conny’s turn to join him on stage for three songs. ‘Emotional Anorexic’ was the first one and it sounds even better with harmonies. <3 Before ‘While the World burns’ he had to mention how boring he finds love songs and thus he had to write this one about dying together. It sounded amazing. He claimed the third song, ‘Baby would you marry me’ was written out of anger, turned into love. It worked well, I’d say. I loved hearing Conny sing with Svavar again. These songs are always beautiful, but guest singers always take them up a notch. 🙂

We got a little history lesson about Iceland in the late 19th/ early 20th century when freedom meant going to America and how terrible the situation had been before they could leave and how 30000 Icelanders went to America, with 300 accidentally ending up in Brazil, where there is still an Icelandic village in the mountains. The song was ‘Hope and Fortune’, co-written with Irish Mythen. This one is definitely on my list of favorites. :’)

Svavar talked about how everyone but him hates January and November and how you start to appreciate light and warmth when everything is cold and dark. He compared them to the beginning and end of a theater play, new beginnings and the wow-moment when it’s over. He then played the songs for both months. ‘November’ especially is a song I love a lot. The concert ended with ‘Girl from Vancouver’ and Svavar declaring his love for his ukulele.

Of course we asked for more and he gladly obliged. He was telling us about having a drunk conversation with a good friend that resulted in him stopping to wear his vest and bowtie. Then he had tow ABBA songs for us, the beautiful ‘Like an angel waling through the Room’ being the first. 🙂 Before ‘When all is said and done’ he spoke about his attraction to Pierce Brosnan and what it does to him. 😀 Both songs are great, I think I really ned to get that Abba album.

Finally, after much cheering, we got stories about a childhood on a farm and watching the Muppet Show in black and white, followed by a great rendition of ‘Mana Mana’ to which we all happily sang along. Svavar got so into it, he broke a string on his ukulele. 😀 We cheered even more, but it as already 11 pm, so the show really ended there!

Downstairs, there was an after party going on, where Svavars friend Uwe was the DJ and played all the songs from my youth. Conny and I were dancing before going outside and sitting down with some people she knew. Svavar joined us eventually and even searched youTube for the movie that contained ‘Mana Mana’ to show it to us. We all had a really nice evening.

Setlist

“Song about the Ocean”
Your Love was Death to me
Morgúnn
Hard Things
Undir Birkitré
Tiger and Bear
Song about the Raven (Icelandic)
The Curtain
Wanderlust

Vetrarsól
In stiller Nacht (Johannes Brahms)
Emotional Anorexic
While the World burns
Baby, would you marry me?
Hope and Fortune
Janúar
November
Girl from Vancouver

Like an Angel walking through the Room (ABBA)
When all is said and done (ABBA)

Mana Mana

Language lessons, stories and Mana Mana

Svavar Knútur – mon ami, Weimar – September 10th, 2021

While Svavar Knútur was playing concerts in my area I was in Poland, but one concert is rarely enough so I found myself on a train going east to see him again. I still felt tired from the Poland tour and when I left home at noon I wondered why I was doing this to myself, but later that night, as soon as the concert started, I remembered. Soon after my arrival in Weimar I left for the venue, only to find out that they were running a little late. That meant I had time for ice cream. Win! 🙂

The concert took place at a cultural center and because it was inside it had not been sold out. Still, it wasn’t empty and the guests were excited about the concerts. The stage was huge and seemed a bit sparse with only one mic stand and guitar case at the center. Yet, as soon as the lights went down and Svavar walked out, I forgot all about that.

Svavar greeted us in German and apologized for his language skills having suffered, with the fluency of honey. 😉 He was happy to see us all and started with ‘Fagurt er í Fjörðum’, translating the lyrics for us before he sang. As so many Icelandic songs it was a mixture of light and dark and sounded very melancholic. Afterwards he told us that he wanted to share his language with us and would play more Icelandic songs during the evening.

Next though was the only sad song he has ever written and had not played in  many years called ‘Your love was Death to me’. I don’t think I’d ever heard it before and I liked it a lot. It was truly sad, not melancholic like his other as he pointed out. ‘Morgúnn’ then was much happier and he let us know that the lyrics to all the Icelandic songs are translated on his website, because he wants everyone to understand what he is singing. I rarely look up the songs, but it makes me happy to know that I can. This one always makes me think of mornings in the fall when I have to get up while it is still dark and treasure the comfort of cradling a hot cup of tea in my hands.

‘Tiger and Bear’ followed and from Janosch we got to ‘Räuber Hotzenplotz’, a book he also loved and even read the Icelandic audio book version for. He fucked up the beginning of the song by placing the capo on the wrong fret of the guitar, but once that was corrected the song became even happier than usual. <3 He spoke about languages and how they sound different, depending on which part of the country you are in, depending on the landscape or rather how flat the country is. Even words with the same meaning in the dictionary can sound and feel very different. His example was the German “Baum” versus the Icelandic “tré” and how a conversation around a “tré” would sound. 😀 Of course he played ‘Undir Birkitré’ which sounded as happy as being under an Icelandic tree.

We learned more about Iceland and how the Icelandic life of always having to adjust is reflected in the language. The he told us about missing his kids and played ‘The Curtain’ which captures the feeling of missing someone you love. It is a really beautiful song. The lessons about Iceland and Icelanders continued regarding showing emotions and how we express anger differently, i.e. Germans might yell and they will keep it inside, unless they get extremely angry. Everyone who was there now knows what happens then and the only things left to do when it does, but I won’t spill the secret. 😉

Svavar played an old Icelandic song about the Raven that he rewrote from the original harsh sounds to a much sweeter melody. It was lovely. Afterwards he talked about playing Zoom concerts in the past year and how a fan reminded him of the song ‘Hard Things’ which he also had not played it years. I liked it right away and I understood how it could put anyone in a good mood. Who knew there were so many songs for me yet to discover? 😀

Once upon a time he was invited to take part in a Nordic Songwriter’s workshop in Denmark, but instead of writing songs together, they had requests from big labels to write songs for established artists according to specific formulas and he didn’t enjoy it at all. He also gave us a few examples of songs written there – it must have been painful. However, ‘Vetrarsól’ was written there and when he played it one Danish songwriter told him to “start writing with your wallet” – apparently he had no clue. We got to enjoy the song though. 🙂

“I like beer, beer is my favorite thing,” he told us, quickly clarifying that of course he likes his children and music more. This was the prelude to teaching us some German words he had invented and showing us how beautiful our language is by playing Brahms’ ‘In stiller Nacht’. ‘Wanderlust’ followed, which is always a highlight for me, even though we did not get a sing-along that night. I really feel this song, especially after 18 months of having to force my own Wanderlust to be quiet.

At this point there would usually be a break, but not this time so he offered to play a bathroom break song, so we could go out and come back without feeling shitty about it. It was Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Help me make it through the night’. We heard about the different jobs Svavar has had before deciding to become a songwriter because of him. It was a great rendition too.

‘While the World burns’ was great and lead to musings about love and friendship and how the latter comes in so many more forms and is more forgiving than the former. Of course ‘Ölduslóð’ followed. One of my all time favorites, ‘Emotional Anorxic’ was on the menu too. The song often makes me cry, but I am always happy to hear it. <3

Earlier this year, Svavar co-wrote a song with Canadian songwriter Irish Mythen called ‘Hope and Fortune’ and told us how it was about a common thread in Irish and Icelandic history with people fleeing their countries to America. He sees the song as a continuation of ‘Lady Winter’ and it is gorgeous. It also reminds me of another song, I believe it might be Mark Knopfler’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’. He thanked the venue, his crew of one and the audience for coming and played the songs about his two favorite months of the year, explaining why he loves them. First was ‘Janúar’ and the second ‘November’. <3

He closed the main set with the ukulele and ‘Girl from Vancouver’ and it was so much fun! 😀 Needless to say we wanted more and cheered him back to the stage. ABBA’s ‘When all is said and done’ was the beautiful first encore, followed by Cole Porter’s ‘Ev’ry time we say goodbye’. That was the perfect way to end the concert, but we cheered so loudly that Svavar came back one more time. He grabbed the uke again, told us he was gonna played a song that everyone would know, despite originally being from an old Italian soft porn movie, and launched into a silly, perfect version of ‘Mana Mana’, complete with all the antics of Animal from the Muppet Show version. So the show ended in a great sing-along. 😀

We chatted a little after the show, talking about how nice it had been and I left with a hug. That was fun, see you again tomorrow.

Setlist

Fagurt er í Fjörðum (Látra-Björg)
Your Love was Death to me
Morgúnn
Tiger and Bear
Undir Birkitré
The Curtain
“Song about the Raven” (Icelandic)
Hard Things
Vetrarsól
In stiller Nacht (Brahms)
Wanderlust
Help me make it through the Night (Kris Kristofferson)
While the World burns
Ölduslóð
Emotional Anorexic
Hope and Fortune
Janúar
November
Girl from Vancouver

When all is said and done (ABBA)
Ev’ry time we say goodbye (Cole Porter)

Mana Mana