Extra Christmas song, a child’s drawing and train strikes

Árstíðir – La Laiterie, Strasbourg; December 12th, 2019

Their show in Strasbourg was the first Árstíðir concert to be announced on this year’s Christmas tour and the first one I bought a ticket for. Later I have asked myself why, because it is not exactly close to home and involved a train trip through the night to get home. When they were playing though, I lost all doubt and knew it had been worth it. Everything about this concert was perfect and I loved every minute of it. Some nights just touch me more deeply than others and this was one of them. <3

My day started early and I got 6 hours of work in before heading to the train station. Due to a strike in France, many trains didn’t go, but mine wasn’t one of them so I got there around 17:30 pm as planned. Since the ticket said 19:00 I assumed it wa sthe start time and went straight to the venue. there was a line already, but for the main hall not the club. I walked around for a while and was alone until 18.30 or so. Then it turned out that 19:00 was the time the doors opened and they were not even on time. We got in eventually and i got to pick my favorite spot at the front. It was a small, but really nice rock venue with a good sized stage – I already had a good feeling about it.

Slowly the place filled up, with all sort of people, young to old, rock fans to others. Jean-Samuel had mentioned his family would be there and I wondered who they were. To my right on the stage sat a boy who might have been around six, ear protection on and watching intently. During the show took out a notepad and pens and started drawing. Not sure what it was, but the shape and green color suggested dinosaur to me. everyone seemed excited to be there and considering it was their first gig in this city, it was a pretty nice crowd. From those I heard talking I assumed I was the only one who had come across the border, butI have no means of verifying that.

Do I even need to mention they started on Icelandic time? 😉 It was beautiful from the start and I fell right into the music. It felt like the first gig on this tour where I didn’t have anything else on my mind, wasn’t going to a different show right before or after. By now I have learned I can switch between my favorites and still enjoy each concert, but I am not claiming that it isn’t difficult at times.This one was easy though – the music carried me right away and I loved every moment.

The audience was really enthusiastic, cheering loudly between songs. Otherwise they really listened. 🙂 At the start, someone called “I don’t speak English” (I think), but somehow that never was an issue. The sound was so good, it was pure joy. I could hear every instrument clearly and even little nuances were noticeable. 🙂 It was one of those shows were everything fit and every song spoke to me. ‘Himinhvel’ is always gorgeous, yet ‘Ljóð í sand’ and especially ‘Passion’ seemed more powerful than usual somehow. The first song that stuck out to me that night was ‘Circus’ though – I could not put my finger on what had changed since the last time I heard it, but somehow this version was absolutely perfect. I especially loved the piano parts. <3

Apart from very short introductions the guys didn’t talk all that much during the first part of the show and concentrated on singing. Each song felt special that night, somehow extra deep or in case of ‘Bæn einstæðingsins’ extra sad. It was so beautiful it almost brought me to tears. Afterwards Ragnar asked if anyone spoke Icelandic and there actually were a few people who did. Someone started talking Swedish to him and he joked he was gonna speak in a mixture of Icelandic and Swedish then. He told us how Icelanders sing sad songs at every occasion and got a lot of laughter. Some guys shouted something in French and when he would not shut up though, other people shushed him – it worked. 🙂

They got a lot of cheers for announcing a song from the first album. I love that album too so I understand. These songs have something pure and warm that somehow got lost in some of the later ones. ‘Ages’ was absolutely brilliant. It has been a long time since it spoke to me that much. We heard more stories about writing those early song on Daníel’s sofa while drinking his home-brewed wine, that wasn’t good, but inspired the music. 😉 ‘Kill us’ was perfect too. There was magic in the air that night somehow. It made me smile through the entire gig – I was so happy I’d made it.

Ragnar announced a song about hope and asked what the French word was. ‘L’espoir’ people replied and he went “exactly”. 😀 He spoke about the bank crash in Iceland and the following depression that prompted the radio station to ask for songs about hope and ultimately the band to write one, ‘Heiðin’. He asked the word for hope again and tried saying it this time. It sounded fine to me, but had Guillaume grinning. 😉 The song was perfect too – it has been a while since I’ve really loved this one, but this night I did.

Then, of course, ‘Síðasta kveðjan’ – there are no bounds to how much I love this song. It wasn’t the song that got me into the band. The credit for doing that goes to ‘Heiðin’ (in the “You just have to know of me” documentary) and then ‘Ljóð í sand’ and ‘Lost in you’ at the first concert I saw. However, it is one of my all time favorites and I can get completely get lost in this song. There is just something about the dramatic mood that touches me too deeply to shake it and even though I do not understand the words it speaks volumes to me. I closed my eyes and listened with all of my heart. It was perfect. :’)

Soon it was time for the amazing ‘La Follia’, followed by ‘Oroi’, before we got into some serious Christmas songs. Gunnar and Daníel started with ‘Jólin alls staðar’, one of those happy Christmas songs, as Daníel declared afterwards. I fully expected Ragnar and Guillaume to join them for ‘Heyr himna smiður’, but instead Gunnar announced another happy Christmas song, legendary, because it was the first song written and recorded by a woman, Ingibjörg Þorbergs. Ragnar joined the other too and brought the tiny keyboard with him to play. It was a great performance. Then we got to hear ‘Heyr himna smiður’ as well, which always sounds so much better around Christmas time. We heard that they only know the song because they have always played it for Christmas.

They had kept ‘Krummavisur’ in the set too and sung it to show us what singing in parallel fifth means. Technically it is Gregorian singing, that the monks brought to Iceland and after which their music did not develop all that much further for a long time. After this music lesson they asked us to listen for what we had just learned in the next song. Yes, ‘Nú gleymist ég’ indeed has some similar sounding elements, but most of all it is just an amazing song. I cannot get enough of it. <3

Straight into ‘Mute’ which somehow sounded more awesome than it usually does and I have no idea if that was just my perception or they actually changed something in the song. I really loved it and found myself swaying with the music. They continued with ‘Things you said’ and I realized that it no longer bothered me as it had early in the tour. It is a great song after all and especially the strings were brilliant. 🙂 Guillaume and Jean-Samuel got lots of extra cheers too. Apparently they do not only bring the classical discipline to the shows but also the fun to the tour bus or so the others claim. 😉

When speaking of winning the independence music award for Nivalis this year, Ragnar noted that “Music is a science of the heart, not the mind” and thus hard to judge objectively. There is a lot of truth in that. ‘While this Way’ followed, a song for the heart not only to me. It is still by far my favorite on Nivalis and can instantly put me in a good mood. Everything about this song is right and that night it sounded especially beautiful. Gunnar noted that we were good listeners and announced the last song. ‘Shades’ closed the second set. It was a killer version too! So so good! 😀

We cheered hugely for encores. This audience was the loudest I had heard so far and the guys gladly came back. They sang a gorgeous a cappella version of ‘And so it goes’. It moved me tremendously and brought me close to tears. What and amazing song that is. Finally, they went into the audience for ‘Góda veslu göra skal’. It was fun as it always is and people sure enjoyed having the band in their midsts. Once they were done and back on stage, thy said goodbye. We kept on cheering for them and did not stop when they left. After lots of that they came out again and bowed one last time, but they did not give us another song. If any audience I was part of would have deserved one more encore, this one did.

It was over though and I gathered my belongings. The boy who had been drawing threw the concert, gifted the result to Ragnar and got a picture with him. It was cute. I spent some time standing at the merch table and wondering if I could manage to get any vinyls home on he train undamaged. Decided against it in the end and said hello to the guys instead. only Jean-Samuel was nowhere to be seen. The rest of them were as happy with the gig as I was. With Ragnar I talked about his Patreon plans and upcoming adventures in Mexico, where he’s traveling in January. We both would have loved to stay longer, but the venue kicked me out in the end. Oh well. It was a lovely gig and lovely night overall.

When I arrived at the train station, it got a little less lovely, because the midnight train I was going to take to Offenburg was cancelled due to the strike. According to my app it would start in Kehl, the first city across the German border. Luckily I was early so I asked a taxi driver how much it would cost to get there. He said 25 € to Kehl and 70 to Offenburg. I decided not to take any chances with the train and my connection and had him take me to Offenburg. Once there I found a kebab restaurant still open and got a tea as I waited for a train. Finally, shortly before 1 am I was on the train, in my seat and on my way to Dortmund for work the next morning. And guess what? It was totally worth every cent and each hour of lost sleep. 🙂

pictures of this concert

Setlist

Himinhvel
Ljóð í sand
Passion
Circus
Bæn einstæðingsins
Ages
Kill Us
Heiðin
Síðasta kveðjan

La Follia (String piece by Corelli)
Órói
Jólin alls staðar
Hin fyrstu jól
Heyr himna smiður
Krummavisur
Nú gleymist ég
Mute
Things You Said
While This Way
Shades

Encore:
And so it goes
Góda veslu göra skal

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