Perfect sound, perfect setlist, perfect show

Árstíðir – Lux, Nijmegen; December 2nd, 2019

Árstíðir’s show in Nijmegen was a tough gig for me. Not because it was bad or because I was carrying any negative emotions with me, but because I’d just had such and amazing weekend with Poets of the Fall that I found it difficult to switch from being high on their music to something as different as Árstíðir’s. To be honest, I was a little bit scared it wasn’t going to work and I sure as hell wasn’t ready. Once again I needn’t have worried. The guys did a brilliant job and drew me in from the start. It was the perfect setlist for me and I could not stop smiling.

Still feeling dead tired from my weekend in Spain and Portugal I dragged myself to work in the morning and did my best to stay focussed for the next seven hours or so. Luckily there was enough to do so time went by quickly. After lunch there was little left to do and shortly after two I was on my way to the train station. Despite my worst fears the trip went smoothly and I made it in Nijmegen in time to check in and change before going to the venue. I was one of the first people there I believe, but there was no telling because it was a theater/cinema/concert hall and there were loads of people waiting to get in for different events. I had a drink, said hello to Gunnar and shortly after met up with C. – we chatted and waited, saw the rest of the band arrive, finally getting in and claiming our spots in front row. It was a nice concert venue, with a big stage so the guys were going to be quite far apart, i.e. it was not possible to get the microphones into one picture.

They started right on time and from the first notes of ‘Himinhvel’ I relaxed. This song has always been a good show starter and the sound was absolutely brilliant. I even loved the reverb, it was going to be great. ‘Ljoð í sand’ was next and sounded just as great. Only after that Ragnar briefly introduced the band, telling us the Christmas shows had been a tradition since 2008. He also mentioned Nivalis and how they had won and award for best album with a jury that included Tom Waits and Robert Smith. He later referred to it as Tom Waits’ favorite album which made us laugh out loud. 😀 Anyway, from that album they were going to play a few songs now, starting with ‘Passion’. It could not have been better. When it was over, C. turned to me and said “This song is starting to grow on me” – well, I have loved it from the start and happily heard it evolve since.

Speaking of “evolving”, the next song on the setlist hat done so even more since I’d first heard it at a Christmas concert years before the album. They finally put ‘Circus’ back on the set and I let out an affirmative “Yes!” at the news. I absolutely loved hearing it again and while I cannot put my finger on what the changes were, it was absolutely gorgeous. After the show Daníel said how it used to be more guitar oriented and that made me remember the early version. However, I could not recall what it sounds like on the album – guess that means I need to listen to it again. 😉

‘Bæn einstæðingsins’ was moving and they sang it beautifully. Now we were getting into Christmas song territory. Gunnar told the story of the Icelandic hermit who had written the poem the song was based on and Ragnar added how Icelandic songs often have underlying drama and sadness. I think it was here he spoke about the way music developped in Iceland and their used of the Icelandic parallel fifth, a way of singing harmonies. He got in full lecture mode and when he was done talking, Daníel, Gunnar and Ragnar gave us an example and it sounded very cool – if I am not mistake it is the song that Sólstafir used to open their show with on the last tour, i.e. they played it from tape at he beginning.

The guys gathered around the microphone at the center to treat us to a few acoustic numbers, starting with ‘Ages’. I just love the string arrangements for that song. My smile was growing bigger by the minute and by now I was really into the show, enjoying it tremendously. Having such great sound helped a lot, but it wasn’t only that, it was the fact that the band seemed really happy to be there and played their hearts out. ‘Kill us’ followed – it works amazingly in this low key acoustic version and I was glad they kept it on the set. 🙂

Ragnar told us how, when the band started, the Icelandic bank crash happened and a radio station asked for songs about hope. Even those have and undercurrent of melancholia though and if the next song made us feel hopeful, maybe we should consider moving to Iceland. They played ‘Heiðin’ for us which made C. very happy because it is her favorite song on the album – since she just did move to Iceland, maybe he was right. 😉 Either way, I enjoyed it too and I don’t always do. This night though, each version of each song seemed to be the best possible one there could be. 😀

When they announced they had only one more song in the first set I thought “Already?” but did not make the connection that it could just be a very long song until I heard “It’s called ‘Siðasta Kveðjan'”. It was my second loud “Yes!” of the night and Gunnar smiled at me. He knows how much I love that song. With it they had projections on a screen in the back and they were really fitting for the music. I closed my eyes at times as I listened and I choked up with emotions too, but the tears would not fall. I just leaned back and enjoyed the beauty of it all. <3

The second set started with just Gulliaume and Jean-Samuel playing a great classical piece. I had no idea what it was, but it showed off their skills and fit the show very well. We asked Jean-Samuel after the show and he said it was by Corelli. Ragnar joined them for the next song and it took me a moment to realize that it was ‘Órói’. I have never really cared for it on the album, but I fell in love with it then and there. How had I never realized it is that amazing? It really spoke to me and made me feel calm, which is funny, considering the title means something like “unrest”. Daníel and Gunnar came back out and sang ‘Jólin alls staðar’ on their own. I loved how they all got their moment in the spotlight that way. The song felt very classical Christmassy, almost like the stuff you’ll hear in every store in Germany starting latest in December. Daníel said that this was one of the happier Christmas songs they had. Of course they could not leave us in such a mood and added ‘Heyr, hymna smiður’ to the mix with Guillaume singing as well.

We went back to Nivalis, starting with ‘Mute’. It was perfect, as if this venue had been made for their specific sound. I really wished I’d filmed the show, but of course you could never know beforehand. ‘Things you said’ was next and I realized that was he only song that night I could have done without. I like it, I always have, but right now I just feel like I have heard it too many times. It was still a great version though. ‘Lover’ followed and made me smile again, singing along to every word. Did I already mention how good everything sounded that night?

The last song from Nivalis was my favorite, ‘While this way’. :’) It was pure perfection and I even had a singing together moment with Ragnar on this one. There are no bounds to how much I love this song – it always fits somehow. 🙂 With the announcement of the last song I did my job and said “awwwww” loudly and thy thanked me for it. Of course we could not be missing ‘Shades’ and finally we knew what the drum was for that we had been standing on Daníel’s side all night. He played it for the song and it made it sound all fresh – awesome! What a brilliant idea to add that to the song. We only wished he had turned around and not played with his back to us. 😉

Soon we had clapped them back to the stage, with standing ovations even and Gunnar conducted us, lowering his hands to make us go quiet and then raising them to make us cheer again. It worked! They choose to stand in front of all the microphones for ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’. I did my best to sing along and Ragnar really tested my lyrics knowledge, looking at me for a long time. I had to half fake it, but at least I did not fail completely. 😉 The always wonderful ‘Nú gleymist ég’ was last and I waited for the moment when Gunnar goes down to a whisper only to grow loud again right after. I love it when he does that! It was the perfect end to a perfect night and I sighed when they finally left the stage. What a beautiful show that was.

We went and said hello to them, telling each one it had been great and chatting about specific parts of the show we had liked. They wanted to know if we were going to see any more shows and were happy to hear that all their new ideas had worked out. I stole a setlist and exchanged it for some Jägermeister hot ginger that Gunnar immediately took a swig of. A few more hugs, more goodbyes and it was time to go home. See you Thursday!

pictures of this concert

Setlist

Himinhvel
Ljoð í sand
Passion
Circus
Bæn einstæðingsins
Ages
Kill us
Heiðin
Siðasta Kveðjan

Classical string piece by Corelli
Oroi
Jólin alls staðar
Heyr, hymna smiður
Mute
Things you said
Lover
While this way
Shades

Góða veislu gjöra skal
Nú gleymist ég

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