Ragnar Ólafsson – Centrum Kultury Euroregionu Stara Rzeźnia, Szczecin; May 17th 2019
Just as I was wondering when Ragnar would tour with his solo material again, tour dates for September were announced. None of them were convinient for me though and I wondered if I’d be able to see even one show. Then, out of the blue a concert was announced for May 17th, about a week before it happened. After I got over the initial “Why oh why do you always have to to announce so late?” I knew I really wanted to be there and thought to myself “challenge accepted!”. Soon I had everything arranged, went to work early on Friday morning and left after four hours to hop on a train towards Szczecin.
I was looking much forward to seeing Ragnar again, not only because I love his music, but also because I could use some distraction from following the anti-abortion laws in the US too closely and watching in horror as women’s rights are being destroyed one state at a time. Visiting a friend and hearing him play some music was just what I needed. Little did I know it was going to be such a great evening! <3
Getting to Szczecin involved changing trains in Berlin and luckily I checked before I got there and realized my original connection wasn’t going to work, so I opted for three changes instead of two and got there on time. The weather was beautiful and I enjoyed walking to my hotel (a ship) and about an hour later to the venue. I wasn’t sure where the concert was going to happen (i.e. in which room), but then I heard soundcheck. Nice!
Ragnar was just finishing up and left the stage as we walked in. I had not told him I was coming and sat down quietly. He came back to pick something up and it still took him a moment to see me – he was genuinely surprised. 🙂 We spent a few minutes catching up until it was showtime.
He started with ‘SSDD’ and I realized it had been over a year since I’d last seen him play on his own without David or anyone else by his side. Except for the duets that is, but we were not there yet. 🙂 He introduced himself and told us if we’d come for happy music this was the wrong place, but if we came to something comforting and soothing for the soul this was he right place. Good thing I came for the latter. With ‘Wine’ I was already smiling. I had missed this. The small, intimate shows where it is possible to play unplugged and sing without a microphone. <3 The room wasn’t even that small, but it felt that way and everyone there sat near the front.
‘Deva’ made me choke up. For me this song will always be connected to my dad and it was almost exactly a year since he died. Another good reason for needing some distraction. I was soon smiling to myself because Ragnar screwed up the lyrics. The funniest part was that I drew a blank on the correct ones as well. Next Alizia (sp?) joined him on stage for ‘Dozen’. She mentioned later that she had been nervous during rehearsals, but all of that was gone and she did a great job. A few people in the room had obviously come to see her. 🙂
The show continued with ‘Õrlög’, the song Ragnar had written for his grandmother. I had totally forgotten about that one, but loved hearing it again. It was the first time that evening that we were invited to sing along and while someone shook her head indicating she would not do it, most people joined in. It sounded nice. ‘Bravery’ was awesome, even without the violin. Before, he told us how traveling is a good inspiration to write songs. That song works in any possible version. 🙂 He moved to the piano for the beautiful ‘Red Wine’ and another sing along for ‘Relations’. He explained that the need to write songs usually does not come when you are happy and thus all the songs were inspired by heartbreak. I do know some happy and good love songs though. 😉
Nobody seemed to mind the sad songs, in fact people even voted for super sad instead of sad when he asked. ‘Urges’ was the result. ‘Walls’ still really gets to me the same way it did when I first heard it. <3 “In a crowd full of people we pick out the few ones that hurt…” He asked Alizia if she was enjoying the concert and she confirmed. She also said she had sang along, while Kamila, the tour manager said she had not. Ragnar concluded that we need good singers as much as good listeners. 🙂 ‘Petals’ followed and was great as always.
We were asked again what we wanted to hear and this time someone said “happy!” so we got ‘Southern Nights’ and the Mississippi story to go with it. The singing along was a bit subdued there at the beginning, but got better. 🙂 An unusually soft version of ‘Scar’ was next. “Soft” as in without any instrument but the guitar. It still had a lot of power. In-between songs he told us a few more stories, the funniest one before ‘Needle and Thread’ where we heard about Bartek’s mom doing his laundry and exchanging all the old clothes with holes for some of Bartek’s. 😀
Already it was time for the encores taking us back to the Mississippi with ‘Muddy Waters’ that even moved some people to clap along. A perfect version of ‘The Message’ followed. We also heard that the second album was going to come out later this year. I cannot wait to hear it. Last but not least was ‘Sleep now’ where Ragnar walked around in the room. I still think it’s a great way to end the show, because it forms a connection with the audience. I also love the song. <3
Ragnar was not 100% happy with his performance, feeling he was a bit rusty with his guitar playing. That might be true, but the show was still exactly what I needed. After everyone else was gone we sat there for a while continuing our conversation from before. Then he asked me if I wanted to join him, Alizia and Kamilla, for drinks and I gladly agreed. Alizia, being local led us to a great bar. There was a party going on and while the music was loud enough to dance it wasn’t too loud to talk. We had some good drinks and even better conversations that lasted until closing time. When I stumbled back to my hotel under the full moon I had a big smile on my face and felt deeply grateful. What a wonderful night that had been.
Needle and Thread