Beautiful light, great singers and silly heroes

Ragnar Ólafsson – Herba Cafe Sklep, Łódź; June 21st, 2022

The last stop on my mini tour with Ragnar was Łódź, where he played at a cozy little café on the edge of town. It was a full house and a lovely show with an attentive audience that also sang really well. I felt right at home and loved it all. It was the perfect night to end the tour and reconnect with friends.

My trip started early so the first thing I did upon arrival was take a nap. Restored, I ran a few errands and made my way to the venue. It was too far to walk and even with the bus it was a 45 minute trip. I arrived just in time to get a good spot and watch soundcheck. Marta told me they had just gotten there as well. Everything sounded great and I immediately loved the place. To my surprise, A. showed up, having spontaneously decided to come to the gig. 🙂
Magda and Bartek came to see the show as well.

Soon, the owner introduced Ragnar and he walked in from the back, playing ‘Wine’, looking at everyone on the way to the stage. It was a perfect start, making everyone listen. <h told us he wrote ‘deva’ while his legs were dangling over the water in the sunshine and that’s why the intro to the song was sunny. Fitting for a song of hope. 🙂 His voice sounded appropriately fragile during the song and hat fits the content perfectly. ‘A Pryer’ was next, starting softly and going to full power by the end. I loved it. <3

He mentioned that we all looked really nice in the beautiful light streaming in through the windows. it was summer solstice after all. After recommending the green tea with mint that he tried before the show, Ragnar admitted taht he liked the red wine he had now slightly better. 😀 We learned our first Icelandic word of the night, “skál”, with a slight dribble in the end “because that’s what people do in Iceland when they are drunk”

It was time for sad love songs and for the first time in a while he mentioned that it started with a break-up. had anyone in the room ever been heart-broken. Of course we were. For a proper duet he needed support and Ewelina helped him out. She did so wonderfully. 🙂

Ragnar told us he always writes music when traveling and about the song that was written during a motorcycle trip and how you could hear it in the song. He joked that his Polish album might sound like “disco polo” and Bartek quipped “please no”. ‘Bravery’ was fun as always. We learned more words, “takk” and “ras” and he encouraged us to use the three words we now knew at any bar in Reykjavik and see what would happen.

He spoke about the pandemic and being very lucky to get a phone call from a director and getting to write for a TV soundtrack. His explanation of what a montage is was priceless, including Rocky music quotes. ‘Hugsanir’ is the most played song on his Spotify at the moment and rightfully so. It as lovely. <3 We voted for another Icelandic song and even agreed to singing along. He joked about the different ways of singing “lalala”, saying it was “all about the intonation. Like Italian. It’s not the pasta, it’s the sauce” – I cracked up at that point, because it reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes. Anyway, we sang really well and afterwards he said that he’d like to think that his gransmother was listening and we just sang for her. 🙂

When he started talking about traveling to Mexico afterward and said he was going to play a newer song, I expected something from the – yet unreleased – Mexico album, especially when he mentioned traveling to Tequila, but then he switched to stories about the Mississippi and played ‘Muddy Waters’. Huh? Did he just forget which song he was going to play and change his mind? 😀 Either way, it was great and we cheered loudly. He told us just how huge the Mississippi is and claimed that rivers in Europe are not that wide. A. and I looked at each other and gestured that we thought differently. 😀 It was an interesting story about the dangers of the river and sudden storms that are very dramatic. This all lead to ‘Southern Nights’. With that the audience proved to be truly great singers. He and Marta agreed that it was the best singing audience yet.

Ewelina came back for ‘Petals’, which was wonderful and then stayed for ‘Dragonfly’. Of course, someone needed to play the Glockenspiel and since Bartek had already left, if was Marta. For a moment I had been hoping for the cow costume – maybe next time. 😉 with this, we had reached the end of the set and cheered for an encore. Ragnar gladly obliged and mentioned th murder ballads, explaining what ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ is about “Man meets woman, man brings flowers, they kiss, and at a picknick he kills her with a rock” – yep, summed up well. Someone asked where Kylie was so he replied “I’m a man of many voices” and sang her part during the first verse into Ewelina’s mic. 😀 Of course ‘Sleep now’ as the finale and even in the smallest room, he manages to walk around. 🙂

I thought the show was over and wantd to complain, because it was shorter than the one the day before and this audience deserved better. then, however, after a break and the owner saing something, Raggi was suddenl back on stage and treated us to an extra encore. He played ‘More will come along’ for Magda and then finished with a compltely silly version of ‘Hero’, going into a detailed description of how he imagined Enrique Iglesias writing the “oh yeah” line. It was hilarious. What a great way to end the show! A. joked about ‘Jaja Ding Dong’ and Raggi heard it, but decided that this could not be topped. I agreed, there could not have been a better ending.

Afterwards there were hugs and a few shared stories before they packed and everyone helped carry stuff to he car. Goodbye, see you soon! A. and I stayed behind and went for a long walk around the neighborhood, catching up. Our great talk continued in the car as she drove me home and we must have chattd for over an hour before I finally got out and she went home. It was truly amazing to reconnect on so many levels. <3

Setlist

Wine
Deva
A Prayer
Dozen
Bravery
Hugsanir
Örlög
Muddy Waters
Southern Nights
Petals
Dragonfly

Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

More will come along
Hero

Rocking in the rain

Ragnar Ólafsson – Songwriter Festival, Sopot; June 20th, 2022

While so far, the weather gods had been kind to the tour, they did not feel like supporting us in Sopot and Ragnar’s open air concert at the Songwriter Festival took place in the rain. strangely enough, it was brilliant, despite many of us having to sit under our umbrellas for most of it. The tiny stage, that even contained a piano, the lawn chairs we sat in under the roof of large trees and the audience that toughed it all out, created a special atmosphere. “I’m glad you were here for this,” Raggi said after the show and I could only agree. Sometimes there is beauty where you least expect it.

My trip from Ełk started way too early and despite having a hostel right at the train station, I did nit get enough sleep. I tried to remedy it with naps on the train and felt a little better by the time I arrived in Sopot. Spent some time blogging in a café until check in, because it was already raining and that didn’t increase my desire to explore. The weather forecast did not look promising at so I stayed at my hostel until it was time to go.

Arrived at the venue around 7 pm and heard the piano long before I could see the lovely small stage. It had a roof and the lawn chairs in front of it were set up underneath some trees, so we were at least partly protected from the rain. Ragnar was rehearsing piano songs and asked me what to play so I made some suggestions. Jaga arrived and so did Beata, the second singer for the night. This was going to be interesting. I watched soundcheck, liked the great sound and then settled down to wait for the show. The rain stopped for a while, but it was bloody cold. I was wearing all the layers I had with me and still freezing. luckily I had brought some tea that kept m a little warmer.

They made us wait much longer than I expected or the event page had said it would start, so by the time Jaga Zawislak got on stage, I was cold again. As soon as she started playing, it didn’t matter any more. It sounded amazing. The songs were the same as the previous day, if in different order. this tim she started with the Seed Holden cover, then moved on to ‘One Man Show’ and played the two Polish songs again, one of which also a cover song of a current hit. Her set was beautiful. 🙂

Soon after, it was time for Ragnar to play and when the organizer announced him, even the dog in the audience showed their appreciation by barking. 😉 He introduced himself in polish and promised that one day he’d be able to speak more. As soon as he started playing, the rain set in again. It formed an interesting contrast to the first song, ‘Wine’, which in my head involves a warm and sunny day. It sounded great. 😀

The audience wasn’t huge, but appreciative and some had even heard him play before. We got ‘Deva’ next and I found myself singing along more than I had at the previous gigs. For some reason I had forgotten about it for a while. With ‘Bravery’ we got introduced to the drummer, aka Raggi’s right foot on the stomp box. The rain got heavier, so those of us with umbrellas opened them. As far as I could tell, everyone stayed despite the rain. 🙂 I was tapping along with the rhythm and rally enjoyed the show. Great sound always makes me happy.

He invitd Jaga to the stage who thanked him for the roof over her head. The mini tambourine made an appearance too and they treated us to ‘Dozen’, followed by ‘Message’. Especially the latter was absolutely amazing. I always love it, but this performance was absolutely spot on. <3

Ragnar talked about all his different bands and being a musical chameleon. This lead up to speaking about the Fractures Soundtrack and playing ‘Hugsanir’. It was exceptional that night. There was just something special in the air and each song was performed with just the right amount of energy, feeling and passion. 🙂

Since we were at Icelandic songs, ‘Örlög’ was going to be next. He asked if we wanted to sing with him on the next one and after we affirmed told us to repeat after him and spit out a rather complicated sentence. “That’s what he said!” someone quipped and we all laughed. “Lalala” was simple compared to that and we managed nicely. It’s always special when everyone gets into it and in the end we even sang on our own.

It was time to switch to the piano and after teaching us a few more Icelandic words, he asked if we wanted to hear ‘Water’ in Icelandic or English. The vote was mixed at first, but finally Icelandic won. It was the first time he played it on the piano with Icelandic lyrics and truly special. <3 A wonderful version of ‘Shine’ followed and he told the story about traveling to Mars and how those first astronauts will have to say goodbye to everything they love on earth. It’s a song I can never get enough of and I really felt it that night.

‘Southern Nights’ brought a story about traveling down the Mississippi on a house boat and another sing-along. He did not divide us into groups this time and we did just fine. “That’s the way that we wanna go” is definitely a good motto to have and to sing out loud.

Now it was Beata’s turn to join him on stage. They joked that they got drunk together before singing together. They delivered a truly amazing version of ‘Petals’, that she really made her own. <3 She stayed for ‘Dragonfly’ and I liked the song much better with her additional vocals. Of course Marta was needed to play the glockenspiel. 😉 It was fun!

Ragnar made sure we really wanted an encore and gave us the murder ballads, explaining how he wished he had written ‘Where the wild Roses grow’, because it fascinated him that something so beautiful can be so ugly at the same time. It was a killer version too! Even though it was still raining, he walked around for ‘Sleep now’, making sure to play to everyone. Even without the mic everything sounded great and the rain only added to the creepiness of the song. Perfect show was perfect!

Afterwards a few people bought albums and everyone said how good it had been. Indeed! I’d loved it. The past few nights had caught up to Ragnar and he could not think any more. Thus, we shared hugs, I lt him sign a postcard for a friend and it was tim to pack, say goodbye and get some rest.

Setlist

Wine
Deva
Bravery
Dozen
Message
Hugsanir
Örlög
Urðarþráður
Shine
Southern Nights
Petals
Dragonfly

Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now