Sólstafir – Christuskirche, Bochum; March 14th, 2019
“It was awesome … I am really glad I had a week to digest the last one” was what I said to Ragnar after this concert, struggling to put into words how it had made me feel. I was in no way prepared for what this show would do to me. Sure, I expected to enjoy it, hoped to be drawn in and thought that maybe it would move me too, but the extent to which it did all those things really caught me off guard. It was wonderful on many levels and I walked away just as emotionally drained as I was happy. 🙂 The “last one” I was referring to was a house concert with Árstíðir and Magnús Þór exactly a week before that was so special I actually needed that week to work through it all. Who would have thought there was another emotional ride in store for me so soon? Sólstafir delivered entertainment just the way I like it: raw, powerful and moving. It was a perfect evening in every way.
When I learned last December that Sólstafir were going to tour again this year I was a little surprised. When I heard it was going to be a tour with a string quartet and more focus on the piano it all made sense though and it got me curious. Knowing that my friend Ragnar would be their keyboarder on the tour helped of course. 😉 Since Bochum is close to home, I didn’t think twice about buying a ticket. Busy with touring as I was I pretty much forgot all about it until the week of the concert arrived. Didn’t really know what to expect, but had heard good things about the venue and was looking forward to seeing them play. On showday I arrived about 90 minutes before the doors opened and was surprised to find a handful of people already waiting. We had a nice chat until they let us in and the line got much longer as we waited. It was sold out and the church filled quickly after they let us in. Got a great seat in front row, grabbed a drink and chatted with my seat neighbor.
It didn’t seem like a long wait and as the intro started I was already smiling, because the sound was great! One by one they walked on stage, starting with the string players. Among them was Lotta, who had played with Ārstíðir for part of their Christmas tour. As soon as Addi started singing, I was mesmerized. There is something about his voice and the intensity of his performance that gets me every time. Sólstafir’s music is powerful as such, but the strings and the keys added an extra layer that got under my skin from the start, giving me goosebumps time and time again.
There was a grand piano on stage and for some songs Ragnar played it too. It made me happy to be at a show where this was possible, assuming they won’t have one at every concert. For ‘Miðaftann’, Svavar took over the Hammond organ. At first he just sat there, vaping, but then played. They took a short break after that song. Addi did not speak much during the first half, except for the occasional “thank you”. The music spoke for itself. Everything about the show was beautiful. I could not believe they’d already played for about 45 minutes – where did time go?
Unexpectedly quick the string quartet was back on stage. The room, filled with chatter moments before, grew quiet immediately. The second half of the show was even more intense than the first. I had to close my eyes several times to fully concentrate on listening. Every instrument was clearly distinguishable, every note was right and every member of the band was on top of their game. It was such a joy listening to them play and watching them work. And while the songs stirred up some deep emotions and a good portion of melancholia I was happy to be there. What a treat this was!
After ‘Hvít sæng’ Addi wished us “Guten Abend”, then immediately switched to English, thanking us for being there. It was clear that he had something to say and people listened quietly. He declared that it was special to be there and how he would have never imagined playing in a church. It might seem ironic knowing how often they sing about death and depression. He talked about their friend Kristinn Sólberg Jónsson who commitment suicide alone between Christmas and New Year’s ten years ago. They wrote him a song without ever intending to play it live, but eventually did to remember him. Now he dedicated it to everyone who was fighting the darkness alone, never talking about it for shame or fear of being judged. “This is Necrologue”. The moment the song started, the tears came. I thought about everyone I know who has dealt with depression, of my own dark times, of the fact that it was always music that helped me through and I cried quietly. It does not take many words to convey what it feels like and Addi poured his heart and soul into the song. They all did. It was a brilliant performance, raw and powerful. I could not imagine anyone not being moved by it. :’)
‘Fjara’ chased the sadness away, but wasn’t any less passionate. I loved how they gave all they had, playing like there was no tomorrow. Every band should perform like that! We thanked them with great cheers. Addi announced that they’d usually leave and wait for us to call them back out, but instead they’d just continue for a bit, unless we wanted “thank you and good night!”. “Nooo!” we replied. He instructed us to answer with “a great big boooo!” instead, so we did. He deemed that we were ready to continue. 🙂
‘Kukl’ was next and it was awesome. Since some of us had clapped too early for some of the other songs, nobody did this time when it ended, until Addi walked up to the mic and thanked us. 😀 He asked us if we were tired and after he assured us that we were not, he introduced the band. They all got well deserved applause. I have to note though, that the “ladies” on strings were only introduced by their first names as opposed to the men in the band.
They asked for help from us to scream on “one, two, three, four” and we practiced a few times. We learned the was only one song left, but a really long song, so we could imagine it as being two or three. 😉 It was of course ‘Goddess of the Ages’. There is a reason why they chose to play this one last. It works brilliantly, once again summing up everything this band is about and letting them all show their skills. Once again, Ragnar took the Hammond for a walk and Addi was down on his knees playing guitar. They really were on fire that night. We all managed to shout on the count of four a few times and when it ended it was clear that nobody wanted the show to be over. They got standing ovations and it took some time for everyone to gather their wits and leave. What a great show that was!
Eventually they all came out to meet the fans, but I only briefly talked with Ragnar, telling him how awesome it had been. Then I opted for catching a train and getting some sleep, happy that I would see one more show this tour.
Goddess of the Ages