Ragnar Ólafsson – Cafe Szafe, Kraków; September 23rd, 2019
Night two in Kraków was my last concert in this tour in Poland and also the night of changeover from David Ra to Julia Skrobek, who will tour with Ragnar for the last week. The setlist changed and the songs that stayed the same sounded differently. It was a nice contrast to the previous night’s show and the combination of both experiences made it even better. I loved it and was glad I had stayed for this one. 🙂
It had been a nice day in Krákow, where for once I did not have to travel. Switched hostels though, but that was OK except for the strange guy in my dorm who spewed conspiracy theories. Whatever floats your boat dude! Thus I decided to go out instead of resting and had some fantastic ice cream on the way. Eventually I got to the cafe, settled down, had quiche this time and did some blogging while I waited. K. arrived just before they opened the doors and we settled down at the front.
I was excited to hear all the songs performed differently without David. I love his violin, but I also like variety and I was curious how many songs would be arranged for two singers that night. First though, there was a support act – local duo Kulawik / Bacia, with singer Łukasz Kulawik and guitarist Marcin Bacia. They were fucking amazing. Great voice, great dynamics, beautiful songs. They sang in English and in Polish and I really enjoyed their performance. Łukasz voice and singing style reminded me of something, but I haven’t figured it out yet. They should clearly be heard by more people. A few people in the audience knew them and cheered especially much at the last song, called ‘Bonnie & Clyde’. It was a Polish one so I didn’t understand anything, but it sure sounded great. 🙂
After a short break, Raggi was on stage, asking who had been there the previous night – some of us were and happy to hear we’d get a different set. Right off the bat he tried something new: He had all of make atmospheric sounds on the first song. He instructed us all to hum and just keep going. It worked beautifully and was the perfect background music to ‘SSDD’. 🙂 For ‘Wine’ he stepped off the stage once again and stood right next to K. this time, which finally gave me a chance to snap a few pictures (I could not do that all the times he stood by my side). It always amazed me how the entire room grows quiet when he does that. He really gets good audiences. 🙂
‘Urges’ was back to a rather stripped down version, which worked just as well as the one with David. He spoke about break-ups and how most people have been heart-broken in their lives. He explained he uses the duets to give a voice to both sides in a break up, because we have a tendency to blame the other person for fucking things up, but “it takes two to tango”. Then he added that it takes four to make a line dance if you are a cowboy, but didn’t want to get into that territory. 😉 Julia joined him for ‘Dozen’. <3 ‘War’ was introduced by saying that it came from a time of doubting everything and was an acoustic metal song when it was written, but needed to be more tender for the album, so he used a ukulele to play it. Julia singing harmonies suited the song well.
Raggi asked us to give a round of applause to Łukasz and Marcin which we gladly did. 🙂 Of course we got to hear about the hell of Jägermeister Cinnamon Vanilla – it really must have been a traumatic experience. Everyone liked the Kaffka metaphor. He went on to explain that he drank for inspiration, “that’s why it’s called spirits”. He needed to borrow a guitar pick before he started and two people offered before I could even dig around in my bag for one. I had not heard ‘Bravery’ in the guitar only version for a while and really loved it. After the song he noted that it was hot and took off his jacket. He was right though, it was warm in the room.
“This is probably the saddest song I’ve ever written” he said before ‘Red Wine’ and promised a happy song after. It is one of my favorites on the album and this version was gorgeous. <3 Since he was at the piano already, he asked us to sing together for ‘Relations’ and we were laughing by the time he was done explaining what we should sing and how. Afterwards he claimed that was a much better crowd than the previous night and I tend to agree. Everybody sang and sounded great. We heard how the songs from the solo album didn’t fit in with any of his bands and so it turned into this project. He explained how even while feeling depressed he had a voice inside his head telling him that life really wasn’t so bad and out came one ironic song, ‘Vegetate’. It fit nicely that the video had just been released the day before. I enjoyed hearing it again and could barely keep from giggling because it made me think of the video shoot.
“Do you wanna hear a new song or a blues song?” – both of course, why do you even ask? So we got ‘Dragonfly’ first, the surprisingly happy love song. ‘Muddy Waters’ followed, with stories from traveling down the Mississippi river, noting that “the fact that the most famous Blues singer of all time is also called Muddy Waters is pure coincidence”. We stomped our feet along with the song – this audience made good replacement drums. 😀 Julia joined Raggi again for a killer version of ‘Petals’ and then they outdid themselves on ‘The Message’. I had already heard it during souncheck and gotten goosebumps then, but this was even more brilliant. <3
That was the high point of the show, it could not get any better. Maybe not, but it just stayed on that level. 🙂 With ‘Scar’ he shared how he found old cassette tapes with recordings of his three-year-old voice and thus ‘Scar’ became a conversation with himself, as he was talking about the same things at age three than at age 30+. It was all sort of amazing. ‘Needle and Thread’ ended the set on a high note or at least on major chords. 😉
We cheered and clapped until he was back and treated us to the beauty of ‘Örlög’. <3 I loved the story about the whole family gathering with his grandmother after she died and finding a book of her favorite poet Davíð Stefánsson by her bedside with one poem marked with a star and that became the song. It brought another lovely sing-along too. Last was of course ‘Southern Nights’. What could have been better to end the night than such happy song with one of the best singing audiences I have heard? 🙂 We wanted more, but the curfew would not let us so it had to end there.
K. and I stayed for a bit, but had to say goodbye soon. I had to try to catch some sleep after all. It was a wonderful night and could not have made me happier. This was once again proof that listening to my heart telling me to go to a certain show is always right. <3
Needle and Thread