Tiny venue, stories about Daníel’s couch and giggle fits

Árstíðir – Chmury, Warsaw; December 15th, 2019

For the third time this year I found myself in Warsaw, yet again at a different venue, yet again for one of my favorite bands. With their Christmas tour in full swing, Árstíðir made a stop in Poland and this was the only weekend gig I could attend. They made it well worth the trip and created some magic like only they can. The songs came alive for me that night and more often than not I closed my eyes to really feel them. It was beautiful.

Getting up in London at 5 am, having hardly slept, I didn’t feel much like traveling. all went smoothly though and when I finally arrived in Warsaw around 2 pm all I wanted to do was sleep. So I did. 😀 Made me feel much better. Went out for food and returned to my hostel briefly, then got to the venue around a quarter to seven. Was surprised by the long line of people until I realized there was something else going on next door. The cafe at the venue was open and I peeked into the tiny hall. Waved hello to the guys who didn’t even have a backstage and were having dinner behind the merch table. Sat down for a while, chatting with a woman from the US who just happened to have a layover in Warsaw on her way home and wanted to see them for the first time.

Got in line, chatted with Ragnar for a bit until Gunnar stole him away from me 😉 and finally got in, claiming a front row spot. The stage was small and low, the room didn’t feel much bigger than my living room. I sat down on the stage and waited for K. to arrive, but first to get you was A. and then K.’s mom. We all stood together chatting until showtime. Since it was somewhat dark and I was too close anyway, I decide dto rest the camera and just enjoy the show for once – wise choice!

After 16 or so shows done, the guys feel comfortable with their setlist and it shows. Everything runs smoothly and they have really fine tuned the music. I always enjoy seeing gigs earlier and later in the tour to witness how the show evolves. This one works really well now and, as Gunnar pointed out to me after, they did not exchange songs, they added some. They sure did after Zurich and I loved it. 🙂

As they started that night, I wasn’t convinced though. ‘Himinhvel’ sounded somewhat distorted in the beginning and I feared it was going to stay like that. Luckily I was wrong and the sound improved greatly during the first song already. 🙂 From ‘Ljóð í sand’ onwards everything was fine. I closed my eyes and listened, having the music take me back to the early years. All was good and it made me so happy. 🙂 The lights were sparse, but nice and made room for the projections in the back. Watching the images and words appearing across the guys’ faces made me smile. it was going to be a good night.

Gunnar made introductions, telling us they’d been touring for almost three weeks and how happy they were to be back in Warsaw. He spoke a little of what was going to happen during this Christmas show, before they played a few more Nivalis songs. I loved ‘Passion’ and after they went straight into a gorgeous rendition of ‘Circus’. In Strasbourg sRagnar had told me they were still working on the live version of this one. I really like it the way it is, especially the strings and the piano. <3

It got christmassy with ‘Bæn einstæðingsins’ and it almost sounded like it was being sung in a church – beautiful. Again I stood there with my eyes closed, letting the music ring through me. Afterwards Ragnar tried out all the Polish words he knew, which weren’t many, but as he said enough to order hot dogs at gas stations. We learned a bit about traditional Icelandic music and the fact that they sing sad songs on happy occasions. Then it was time for the first album and ‘Ages’ – while the string players sat in the back the first time i saw the show they now stood with the others, Guilaume even playing the cello standing up. 🙂 The song always has spoken to me.

We then heard stories about Daníel’s couch and his home brewed wine, which had a good label, but the taste was not up to it apparently. ‘Kill us’ followed with just Gunnar, Daníel and Ragnar around the central mic. The told us of writing a song about hope. We all laughed when Ragnar tried to untangle his in-ear from his hair and needing some time, commenting “and why do I have such long hair”. ‘Heiðin’ may not sound all that hopeful to some, but it sure sounded great. 🙂

Already it was time for the last song in the first set and I braced myself for ‘Síðasta kveðjan’ – I always have to, it still hits me hard if in the best possible way. It is always gorgeous and it always brings me close to tears. I alternated between watching the guys work and closing my eyes, getting lost in the music. Somehow there is no more perfect song in their catalogue that introduced you to everything they are about from the beautiful strings to the dramatic changes in tempo the song is masterpiece. <3

Guillaume and Jean-Samuel were back on stage first and got their moment in the spotlight playing Corelli’s ‘La Follia’ – after the gig I finally asked Guillaume what it was called and he also explained that it is a much longer piece with room for improvisation that they made fit. It is awesome and really highlights their talent. I would not mind listening to more of that. ‘Oroi’ followed and then Daníel and Gunnar came back on stage for ‘Jólin alls staðar’. 🙂 And since one happy Christmas song was not enough, we got ‘Hin fyrstu jól’ too. I was so happy they kept that one. ‘Heyr himna smiður’ made a lot of people happy – it always does.

The lesson in music history continued 😉 and we heard that ‘Heyr himna smiður’ was voted the most popular choir song in Iceland recently. I always enjoy the music lesson especially with the guys giving an example of parallel fifth. It makes me think of the long talk on this topic that Ragnar did in Russia before his shows last year. This time it made me grin that he pronounced ‘Chopin’ wrong and kept looking at Guillaume, wondering if he was going to correct him. Probably after the show. 😛

‘Nú gleymist ég’ was as brilliant as always and I really loved ‘Mute’ that night. No idea why, but the song spoke volumes to me all of a sudden. <3 I also enjoyed just watching the guys work, looking at whoever was singing or playing a part that is special to me. ‘Things you said’ carried me right down memory lane. I’ve heard that song so many times in so many different places and in such different states of mind, that it can make me either happy or sad. This night was a mixture of both. After the song, Ragnar introduced Guillaume and Jean-Samuel, speaking of everything the French guys bring to the band. Then he claimed they play more in Poland and other countries than in Iceland and K. and I just shook our heads. Outside Iceland is right, but certainly not in Poland. 😉

Much too soon we had reached the end of the concert with the brilliant ‘While this way’ and the amazing ‘Shades’. Somewhere earlier on, people had started clapping before the song was really over and now, after ‘While this Way’ they waited for a moment to be sure it was really over. Gunnar spoke about how after being on the road together for so long, they found new ways of communication and did not even need to speak-  somehow A. and I could not stop giggling at that. I have no idea if it was the way he said it, or what else, but it was a true giggle fit. 😀 ‘Shades’ seems to be getting better each time – I just love those drums! <3

Since they had nowhere to go, the guys just stayed on stage and went almost directly into the encores. ‘And so it goes’ was stunningly beautiful. What a great song it is. I am so happy they added that one to the set. Of course they could not leave us on a sad not and went into the audience for ‘Góda veslu göra skal’ –  when Gunnar announced they were going to play one last Christmas song, someone yelled “Play some Jingle Bells” and Daníel actually started singing the beginning of it, until Gunnar explained that what they had in mind was much older. It is still the perfect show closer.

we hung out for a while after, chatted with the guys and each other, hugged. I tried to find the American woman, but she must have left directly after the show. Would have loved to know what she though. It was a good night and I thanked them all for it. One more to go for me on this tour…

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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