Ragnar Ólafsson – A Propos, Wałbrzych; September 20th, 2019
Following my friend Ragnar on tour has taken me to strange places. Strange, in a sense that I have never heard of them before and still could not tell you much about where they are located, even though I have been there. So far, it has always been worth it though and last night was no exception. It was a lovely show at a really nice venue and the people who did show up for it sure were rewarded. I know I sometimes make it harder for Raggi and David, because I have seen so many shows and heard most of the songs already, but they still manage to surprise me. <3
Lately, I am doing my best to be more environmentally conscious regarding my travel, which means that if I have the time and it is possible to get somewhere by train, this is the option I choose. With September 20th being the day of world climate strike it only felt right to take on and 11 hour train ride with five changes in order to go to Wałbrzych, Poland for a concert. Granted, it would have been much easier to just fly to Wroclaw and take a train from there. The one positive thing about train travel compared to this specific flight route: while I had to start insanely early, it was nowhere near as early as I’d have had to leave for a 6 am flight. Either way, after returning from an Amanda Palmer gig at 1 am, getting up again at 4:30 was no fun. I made it though, despite part of one train line being replaced by a bus due to construction work. First thing I did when I arrived? Sleep!
The gig was at a hotel/restaurant and since I was staying there overnight, I did not even have to pay for the concert. I got there early of course to get a good spot. 🙂 Met David on the way and he told me they both had a cold they were fighting. I immediately felt sorry for the guys. The show must go on though and I have to say it was barely noticeable that they were both a bit under the weather.
It was supposed to start at 8, but it was around 8:25 when the guys were finally announced. I had been told the table closest to the stage was reserved, but nobody had showed up so I switched places. After ‘SSDD’ Ragnar told us that a room like this one with lots of wood usually had great acoustics and proceeded to try it out with playing ‘Wine’ completely unplugged while standing on a chair. He was right, it sounded great. 🙂
As always I loved the stories between songs, especially when Ragnar spoke about having to make experienced to have something to write about and that his way of finding stories was traveling. I can relate. Funnily the one time I heard him not mention which terrible drink inspired ‘Bravery’ and only say that it was one of the worst drinks he had ever had, someone asked what it was. 😉 He elaborated how it was not only the drink, but also the view in the place where he wrote the song and the day he’d had that played into the song. It was a really brilliant version too, that felt like they had worked on the violin parts. <3 When it was over it took a moment before we clapped. Stunned into silence? For some reason we got from love and heartache to Star Wars movies, comparing love to the force. OK then. 😀 ‘Urges’ had a slightly different intro too. I loved it.
The piano in the room had to be used of course and we all got to sing along to ‘Relations’. No matter how shy people are, it always works out somehow. At the end of the first set we got ‘Sleep now’ where even David sang a bit this time. 🙂 To my surprise there was no walking around in the room this time. It fit nicely mid show. 🙂 During the break I got to chat with Raggi a bit who was just about as tired as I was. We were both a bit scatter-brained, which led to me not even knowing which day of the week it was and got funny: “I’ll put you on the setlist” continued “and then sing the guestlist” and led to musing about what else he could sing – phone book, wine list, menu perhaps? 😀
Set two started with ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’. Hearing it again made me very happy. <3 Not only does it take me to New York City in my mind, I also just really like the music. David took a break for that one and joined Raggi again after. As he was welcomed back to the stage they were joking about David being Ragnar’s forefather, as Icelanders have descended from Norwegians. There were also the seasick ones that only made it to Faroe Islands and the stupid ones who went all the way to Greenland. 😀
The guys treated us to a beautiful new song called ‘Dragonfly’. I fell in love with the violin right away. It also reminded me of something else, but I haven’t figured that out yet. Doesn’t matter though, I have a good feeling about that one. Hopefully we’ll get to hear it more often. ‘Muddy Waters’ made a reappearance too, still as groovy as ever. It showed that they have been working on the new album during this tour. I noticed subtle and not so subtle changes everywhere.
“Do you want to hear a sad song or a super-sad one?” Raggi asked. I voted for super-sad, because I knew it was going to be ‘Red Wine’, but others voted for “just sad” and so we got ‘The Message’. I love both songs so that was perfect too. <3 We learned that picking up a new instrument helps with writing music, because it “makes your mind think outside the box”. Sounds interesting, I should try that for writing stories, even though there are not many “instruments” to choose from. ‘Scar’ and finally ‘Needle and Thread’ ended the set, but of course they came back for more.
Someone asked for a song in Icelandic. Since he writes English for his solo project he wanted to know if anyone knew Árstíðir and I felt obliged to respond so he was like “You do? Oh yes, you are even wearing the T-Shirt.”. The funny thing was of course that nobody else would know just how well I know them. 😀 For a moment I thought he was going to play ‘Ljoð í sand’, but instead it was ‘Örlög’ of which I hadn’t know it was written for the band. The title means ‘destiny’. We managed a really nice sing-along this time.
Finally David joined him one more time for ‘Southern Nights’, where we completely failed them on the chorus. Sorry. The song was chosen, because they “only play songs that the violin likes”. It was all good fun and a very enjoyable concert overall. A few people bought CDs and I stayed for a hug and a brief chat before we said goodbye and goodnight, all in bad need of some rest. We’ll continue tomorrow…
Every Brick in Manhattan
Needle and Thread