Old favorites, tears and a trip down memory lane

Ragnar Ólafsson – house concert, Orzesze, February 22nd, 2020

My third show of the tour was also the first of four house gigs on this leg. It was a pretty big house show with a strange atmosphere, where Ragnar had to work rather hard to get the audience on his side. He did well though, made some interesting setlist choices and created a great show in the end. I really loved it and was lucky enough to get some post-show encores as well. 🙂

Traveling from Krakow was uneventful, but after I had lugged my suitcase by the side of a busy road to my hotel for 25 minutes I gave up any thought of walking to the venue, which was about 5 km away from said hotel. Why? Because there was only one hotel in that city so I did not really have a choice. Fortunately there was one taxi company so the receptionist ordered one for me and I relaxed until it was time to go. My idea was to go early, find the venue, get some food and go to the gig. Bad idea. Near the house there was one pizzeria and one Zabka (tiny grocery store, seven/eleven style. I decided to get some food there, but for some reason I didn’t understand (problem with the cash register?) it was closed and by the time I realized they were not going to open again any time soon it was too late to get a pizza, so I went back to the venue hungry.

I’d already met Ragnar and Bartek when my taxi dropped me off, because they were really running late. Now that I’d returned I greeted them again and found myself a seat. The house was huge with a balustrade upstairs and many many seats set up on the floor. Wanting to be front I chose to sit on the floor and lean against the couch. I saw one familiar face from the previous night in Krakow, but I’d forgotten her name (sorry!), everyone else was new to me.

Eventually Bartek announced him and the concert started with ‘SSDD’, softly. After that, he asked us if the volume was OK, “because this was my most dramatic song and now I’m gonna calm things down a little bit.” The joke fell flat, but it didn’t break his stride and he continued with ‘Wine’, stepping into the room and standing by my side for most of the song. <3 I got unexpectedly emotional during ‘Deva’ and felt like that for much of the show. t was nice, I had finally arrived on tour so to speak and enjoyed it to the fullest. One could also blame too little sleep, but that’s just regular life on tour for me. 😉

The night’s guest singer was called Jedwiga (sp?) and Ragnar joked about the difficulties of Polish versus Icelandic. Finally people were laughing. 🙂 ‘Dozen’ was performed beautifully and by now I had the feeling people were really listening. The Jägermeister story was cut short, but ended with the advice to run the other way if one encountered the drink. ‘Bravery’ felt extra angry to me that night and I liked it that way. Usually that song gets huge cheers, but it didn’t, just polite clapping. Maybe people didn’t like it so much after all. The whole show felt like a lot of work.

Ragnar talked about traveling and all the places he has been, then landed in New York, speaking about brick buildings in Manhattan. I was already smiling, because I knew what was coming. ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ is a favorite of mine and I had not heard it in a while, so I was happy he put it on the setlist. <3 It was a powerful version too and the set continued into Mississippi stories and ‘Muddy Waters’, which was just as powerful and extra bluesy this time around. Great! Before he played it though, he spoke about songwriting and just putting his antennas out to find whatever is out there as opposed to writing songs with his mind. It reminded me very much of something Nick Cave had said at the “conversations”. Afterwards he told us he wants to play the Blues when he’d too old to travel and too fat to move around. Just sit at a piano, play the blues and have a hat for people to throw money in.

He taught us that a gentleman is a man who knows how to play the banjo but doesn’t. It was the build up for ‘Scar’ of course. Even though I don’t hate banjos it is a good thing he recorded it on guitar and not banjo. It just fits so much better with all the anger of that song. Ragnar had more surprises in store for me with playing ‘Needle and Thread’ next. I’m not sure if he’d done that one on this tour yet and it’s a song I always enjoy. When he introduced it, I had a hard time not grinning though, because he really milked the whole “I don’t know how to do any practical things on my own” – thing. Looks to me like you survived pretty well for the past five years. 😉 Nonetheless I love the song and loved this performance of it as well.

Surprisingly people agreed to sing with him or at least one guy did. Everyone was up for it when they found out it was only “lalala” and it sounded really nice. The song of course was ‘Örlög’. 🙂 Bartek, the “man of many talents” was invited to the stage. When Ragnar claimed he spoke a bit of Icelandic even, Bartek’s reply was “lalala”. 😀 ‘Dragonfly’ has really turned into the fun song of the night for me thanks to the cow costume and other shenanigans. With ‘Petals’ the end of the set already arrived and Jedwiga did a good job on ‘Petals’ too. I still love hearing different singers joining Ragnar for the duets every night.

The audience did demand more and we got it, starting with ‘Southern Nights’. We sang again too and I’d say we did alright, first a bit shyly, but by the end loud enough. Yay! Now people were really into it and wanted to hear even more. Ragnar confessed to be hungover for the second day in a row and apparently somewhere during the night of drinking that lead to said hangover, he and Bartek had sat on a bar and sung Enrique Iglesias. Therefore we got to hear ‘Hero’ – he did it purposefully bad so it was really funny. 😀 After that, of course, he had to give us a good cover version with ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ and got a bit carried away in the description of what happens in the song: “the he bashes her head in and there’s brain splattered everywhere”. OK, if you say so. Last, but not least he ended the concert with ‘Sleep now’. The only thing I don’t like about the song is knowing that it is the very last one. Otherwise it was wonderful.

A few people stopped to chat afterwards, but the house cleared out quickly and soon there were very few of us left. Ragnar sat down on some low chair, grabbed his guitar and started randomly playing a few songs. I think he started with ‘A Prayer’ and I soon sat down on the floor at his feet, listening. He wasn’t only playing for me, but it sure felt like it. Next was ‘Palenque’, the new Patreon song from Mexico. Then, he tried finding the right chords for a while and ended up playng a new song I’d only heard once before, called water. It was so beautiful it drove tears to my eyes. The whole set up sent me on a trip down memory lane to about 20 years ago when my the boyfriend J. would get up in the middle of the night to write songs and sometimes I’d wake up and listen in. The feeling in Orzesze that night was very much the same and brought some very happy memories with it. ‘Mexico’ might  or might not have made an appearance too, but I’m not sure any more. Last song was an instrumental version of ‘The Message’ which I recognized, but could strangely not remember the title of. After that we called it a night, hugged goodbye and I took a taxi home. I fell asleep with a happy smile on my face.

pictures of this concert


Every Brick in Manhattan
Muddy Waters
Needle and Thread

Southern Nights
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

Ragnar Ólafsson – Something New Tour – three gigs down, seven to go. Next stop: Bielsko-Biala

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