Árstíðir – The Rope Shack, Hamburg; February 26th, 2019
Sometimes I just have to follow my heart and if that means skipping one concert in favor of another then so be it. In this case I’d had a ticket to see Ólafur Arnalds for ages and bought them so long ago that I remember thinking something more interesting or more important might come up on that date. It did, but that happened so short notice that it was impossible to sell the ticket. Just before I started touring with them I knew that Árstíðir were going to play a concert in Hamburg on that date. What I didn’t know then was the crucial information that it was going to be an acoustic gig. I heard that from Gunnar in passing while we were already touring so I had no way of selling my ticket for Ólafur which I’d left at home. I know myself well enough to understand I would not have enjoyed his concert knowing I’d miss a special gig of one of my favorite bands on the same evening. Therefore, I bought a train ticket to Hamburg and I have no regrets. It was a wonderful show that felt like a living room concert and brought me special versions of current songs as well as most of my old favorites. This sure was one of my favorite gigs of the entire tour. <3
Traveling home from Homburg in the morning where I’d stayed after the amazing Melissa Etheridge gig the previous night, I visited my home briefly to change and leave my suitcase, the went to work and left again before 3 pm to be on my way to Hamburg. it was cutting it close, knowing that the trains in that direction are usually late and I was only supposed to arrive at 6:15 for a 7:30 gig. It went surprisingly well though and I got to the venue just before the door opened. Ran into Krys on the way, who pointed me in the right direction and had just said hello to C., who had saved me a spot in line (that was very short) when Ragnar walked out so I was greeted with a hug. Got a seat at the front, off to the side, because I wanted to film the gig and not be in the way. It was so close, I was almost sitting on stage. I don’t think the room was any bigger than my living room and when I. arrived a little later she joked “they could have played in our living room instead”. True. I didn’t count, but by the time 7:30 rolled around there might have been 30 people in the room. It was cozy, they had good drinks and even provided snacks.
I was really curious to hear Nivalis songs in an acoustic version and wondered what other songs they would play, because I figured the setlist would differ from a regular show. It did, it was much more like a show in he old days judging by the songs that were played and yet it was not. The guys did not play completely unplugged or as they put it “cheated with the piano” that needed to be plugged in. No microphones though, only their voices. it was beautiful beyond everything I could have imagined. It’s a small miracle that I did not cry happy tears all the way through. I was smiling so much my face hurt though and more than once, a deep happy sigh escaped me. This was exactly the concert I needed to be at. <3
The stage was one of the smallest I have even seen them on, reminding me of the great show they did at Café Galao in Stuttgart a few years ago. They barely fit all on there. In the beginning it was only Daniel, Gunnar and Ragnar and the firstthing they did was tale away the chairs taht had been provided for them and stand right in front of us – so those sitting at the back actually got to ses them better than we did at the front. 😉 The band started with telling us how Nivalis is their most electric album and they’d play some old songs first the same way they did when they started out. There was a couch in the back of the venue and no shortage of red wine. ‘Sunday Morning’ was first and I had to sing along in quiet mode, otherwise it would have been audible to everyone. It felt as if they were playing in my living room, just for me and a few friends and having them start with one of my favorite songs was perfect.
Ragnar told us how they found each other as a band because they all liked singing harmonies and how ‘Kill us’ was a stage favorite back then and has come back now. Playing the two sogs they’d been playing in this setup for the entire tour eased them into the setting and also got the audience in to the right mood. Everyone was really quiet and there was almost a small break before anyone clapped. The band asked the string Players on stage and joked about being “an Icelandic band powered by Frenchmen” – we learned that a lot of Icelandic words have a sonic equivalent in French that is usually rather dirty and a good source for fun in the tour bus. We heard a lot of stories that night. I absolutely loved it, felt a bit like an evening of VH-1 storytellers. ‘Ages’ was next and started with a beautiful string intro. It brought back many memories of earlier tours.
Afterwards Ragnar had to move to the piano and Jean-Samuel started playing before he was ready. Right song, premature start. It was a funny moment. ‘Ljóð í sand’ sounded very much as it always does, even without amplified guitars or voices. The song was made for this. Next we got to hear a short recap of the US tour where everything went wrong and the tour bus broke down in a cornfield in Iowa with ‘Days and Nights’ being dedicated to the state of Iowa. I’d missed that song, it was always a highlight on te setlist for me. Ragnar stood up while singing it and I remembered how he’d told me a few days ago that it is a lot easier to sing when you’re standing than when you are seated.
Gunnar told us they had not played the next song in years and announced ‘You just have to know of me’. I briefly wondered when I’d heard it the last time and then got so caught up in the music I forgot all about it. This song also was an early love of mine and has aways had a special place in my heart. I even have a hoodie with “The taste of yor voice reveals what before was unknown” written on the back. During that exact line, Ragnar smiled at me – he remembered the hoodie. I sure did not expect ‘Silfurskin’ next – it made me so happy. It has always been one of my favorites on Hvel and often it feels like the song gets left out for the benefit of other one. Any concert where they play it becomes special to me. <3
“Let’s do a super depressive song” Ragnar said and they all got up again. Gunnar told us the story how they were approached by an Icelandic comedian/artist/”many things” who had written a song to a poem he’d found in a hermit’s house after he dies. I knew then it was going to be ‘Bæn einstæðingsins’. nobody knew about his poetry until after his death. The performance was gorgeous. Anyone who didn’t have goosebumps yet, should have gotten them right there.
We learned that The Rolling Stones played on smaller stages when they started out, so it was all good. They announced ‘Lost in you’ next and mused about it not being on the setlist since their tour with Anneke van Giersbergen, where Gunnar did not sing it, because she did. The smile on my face was huge, as I remembered how I fell in love with this song at the first Árstíðir concert I saw back in 2012. It hasn’t lost any of ist magic since. <3 Ragnar told us how much they were enjoying this different show and we confirmed that we did as well. As if they had not done enough for me yet, they dug up ‘Látum okkur sjá’. *sigh* It is another song I have always loved and as I recall, the first song they ever dedicated for me at a show. What can I say without repeating myself? It was so good. Not once during that evening did I think about the fact that I was missing another concert for it. Yet I would have really been missing something if I had not come to Hamburg.
Next Daníel told us a story about working on a song in Karlovy Vary in 2013 and not stopping until it was finished, because sometimes it is better to stick with it. They premiered it a few days later, I remember it well. it was a beautiful surprise to have that new song on the setlist that day. IfI am not mistaken it didn’t even have a title then, but later became known as ‘Someone who cares’. It is still just as beautiful as it was then and they played a great version of it. Next was the first Nivalis song of the night, ‘In the Wake of you’, but first they told us about the studio where they recorded the album and how it has all those synthesizers that they would take off the wall and use. The song was brilliant. I had the feeling they guys were a little scared the songs might not work in an acoustic setting, but this was so good. 🙂
The always awesome ‘Nú gleymist ég’ followed. Daníel noted that it might be better acoustically “than the real version” and Gunnar questioned if this was the real version. Ragnar added that after five and a half weeks on tour it become hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. This continued into chatter about how it is to come back after having been on the road for some time and how you become a different person on tour. Rumor has it that Bono’s wife orders him to stay in a hotel for two weeks after a tour and they mused if that might be a good idea. I laughed, but I totally felt what they were saying. It is an adjustment, even after one or two weeks on the road. 😉 All this lead to difficult to pronounce Icelandic words and the most surprising song of the night. I would have never expected ‘Friðþægingin’ to work in this setting, but it did. It was just as powerful as alway. They guys rally put everything into the song. 😀
Already they were down to their last song and I felt really sad about it. This had been so much fun and so different from their usual shows that I wanted it to last forever. No complaints though, it was all sorts of wonderful and exceeded all of my expectations. <3 ‘Passion’ was last and yes, it was awesome too. These guys really know how to sing and play. Wow! We cheered and clapped and asked for more. Standing in the back, the band gave us ‘Góda veslu göra skal’ and it was lovely. I was so happy I#d had a chance to see this gig.
When it was done, I had the feeling the guys were relieved and happy. I hoped they understood why I believe that such concerts are special. It was something rare and unusual and I absolutely loved it. Told them too and mentioned how well the songs had worked. Learned from Daníel that it is hardest for the guitar players, because the strings are so much louder and the piano is plugged in. Never thought about it, but of course he has to use more force in playing the guitar when it is not amplified. Thanks you for that interesting bit of information. 🙂 I showed everyone my Ólafur Arnalds ticket too. Had been planning to throw that into the hat that went around for collection afterwards (yes, this was a free gig), but they would not have known it was mine. They were all surprised I preferred their show to his, but it is how it is. Jean-Samuel said he felt honored. Just talking with them was lovely and as I left, because I had a train to catch, Daníel rushed after me and handed me the night’s setlist. That was the sweetest gesture of a night not short of happy moments. <3
On my way home I had the whole gig replay in my head and there was never a doubt in my mind about going there. It cannot get much better than this. Thank you so much guys, you truly made my night!
Ljóð í sand
Days and Nights
You just have to know of me
Lost in you
Látum okkur sjá
Someone who cares
In the Wake of you
Nú gleymist ég
Góda veslu göra skal
Nivalis winter tour: 16 gigs down, 2 to go. Next stop: Gothenburg