Ragnar Ólafsson – Longplay, Poznań; February 25th, 2020
Ragnar Ólafsson’s concert in Poznań had been one I was looking forward to, because they have always been good so far. Since the Meskalina had closed its doors, it took place at a small record shop/cafe, which was totally packed. It was just as much fun as I’d hope it would be, even though the setlist was more or less what I had expected. The audience was good and I enjoyed being there. Kathia (Kasia), who had sung with Ragnar in Puszczykowo, played a few of her own songs as a support and I really liked her too. It was a good evening overall.
After Puszcykowo, Poznań was easy to reach – or so I thought. It was supposed to be 15 or 20 minutes by train. Thus, I slept as long as I could (about 8:30 or 9 ;)), relaxed, went downstairs and had some tea with my host and finally moved to the train station for my 11: 43 train. All was well until I realized the train was almost two hours late and the next one was not supposed to go until 13:05. Meh! Then I found a bus, asked a woman if it was the right one and she even helped me get the right tram once we arrived in Poznań. All in all it took me about an hour to get to the main station, but it sure beat waiting. From there I went to my hostel, discovered that I as lucky to have the four people dorm to myself and went out for lunch. Got caught in the rain without and umbrella on the way back and spent the day inside until I was ready to go to the venue. So much for sightseeing on this tour. I also had not worked out once until now and it was getting more unlikely every day. Back to it when I get home I guess.
As usual I was too early and took a walk around the block before going in. Got me some tea and briefly chatted with Ragnar before the show. J. and her boyfriend were there as well and J. the photographer too. I got a spot at the front and was curious about what I would get to hear that day. Soon Bartek made announcements before the show and then Kathia was on stage, starting with a beautiful English song where she sang something about “between the lakes, between the mountains” – my best guess is that it’s called ‘Hold me for a while’ or something along those lines. I loved it. Not only was her singing great, I also enjoyed her guitar playing a lot. The second song was also in English and quite different from the first one, then she sang one in Polish, that I also liked. I just wished she had spoken English, because I have no idea what she was saying about the songs, but of course I could not expect her to do that. At least I could understand most of the songs. 😉 The last one was in English again, maybe called ‘Losing my mind again’. It was just as strong as the other three. Wow!
We got a little break and then Ragnar was on stage, surprising me by starting the evening with ‘Southern Nights’, saying he was in a good mood and wanted to start with a happy song. So he played it on the happy sounding ukulele and gave us a description about the time he was writing it as being half naked, tanned and happy. When the time came for us to sing, we didn’t do it loud enough at frst, so he conjured an image of a football match where Poland was wining against Germany (the best football team in the world) and it helped. There was lots of laughter in between too. The mood was generally great.
He joked that he was just going to play the little guitar now, because Kathia’s guitar (a Gretsch) was so much better than his. The guitarlele, he explained is what happens after a ukulele and a Spanish guitar had sex. The song he played was ‘Wine’. It was beautiful. 🙂 “Do you want to hear something sad or something sweet?” he wanted to know and we voted for “sad”. So he talked about Deva and broke “everything but her spirit” when she fell off a cliff and then was in a coma, but managed to recover. Before playing the song, he added that he is not a religious man and his way of praying is writing songs. Looks like it might have worked in this case. The “sweet song” followed and was ‘Dozen’ with the help of Kathia. It was just as sweet as he promised.
Next he had to suffer for ‘Bravery’, making good use if the newly bought stomp box. It was fun! Then he told us he’d sing another song from the Mississippi river. I had no idea what was coming and he took me completely by surprise by dedicating ‘Walls’ to me. <3 Without so much as a break, he continued with ‘Water’. It was a killer combination, making me really sad and totally happy at the same time. Both songs are incredibly sad, but also gorgeous and I love hearing them. Nothing could have made me happier that night.
Before ‘Scar’ he explained how you can get into a habit when always composing on the same guitar and how his fingers might play the same thing over and over so he likes to pick up new instruments from time to time. He also spoke about the tapes of himself at age three that he used for the recording, obsessing over the same things he still thinks about, concluding he is a hopeless case. Thus he became a musician so he gets a free pass for being weird and cannot be fired. All that caused much laughter and then he gave us an amazing version of the song. 😀
People laughed again when he said he wanted us to sing in Icelandic. The funniest thing for me was when he claimed the songs was called “Umferðaröngþveiti” and I wondered how many people got that joke. He then said a long and complicated sentence in Icelandic and instructed “repeat after me” – more laughter. Probably everyone was relieved when it was just “lalala” in the end and sang along right away. ‘Örlög’ always works. One day I am going to have to ask him what the lyrics mean. For now they sound a bit like a fairy tale to me, because I have no clue what he is singing. He praised us for doing well “Now you can tell all your fiends you sang in Icelandic”.
Ragnar spoke about the next song as “so new it is going to be on my third album” and joked about wanting two volunteers to help him out. Of course he asked Kathia and Bartek on stage with him to play ‘Dragonfly’ and they noted it was their first performance as a band. They did well and were apparently enjoying it too. Everyone loved Bartek’s cow costume and he once again picked someone from the audience to play the final note on the mini keyboard. Ragnar claimed it was history in the making, then told us he played in the wrong key and the other two backed him up anyway. Bartek left and Kathia stayed for ‘Petals’ and did a great job again. 🙂
The encores brought the expected cover of Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’, a song that has become a tradition in Poznan. First we got to hear the story how it came about though. He claimed he didn’t want to but had to play it every time in Poznan (“it’s like Christmas, I don’t like that either, but have to…”), then blamed it all on Bartek. He had helped him with something and when Ragnar told him “You’re my hero” Bartek started singing the song and it got stuck in his head and found its way into he encore and here we were. Some tuning was needed, then declared “good enough” and off he went. It certainly is funny, because he totally exaggerates it.
Finally he talked about how much of an inspiration Nick Cave has been for his heavier bands in Iceland. He called him “the king of cool”, saying “he leaves you speechless… but not in the way Enrique Iglesias leaves you speechless…” 😀 And even though he had to be both Kylie and Nick it was all good. Of course it ended with ‘Sleep now’ and Ragnar walking the room while singing it. That is always fun and by now I really know all of the words. Towards the end he walked into the next room and people started clapping already, even though the song was far from over. 😀
I didn’t stay long after, it wasn’t a night for parties, at least not for me. We talked for a moment, hugged goodbye and I was looking forward to getting some sleep that night, still catching up after Krakow and Puszczykowo. Tomorrow we’d do it all again.
Where the Wild Roses Grow
Ragnar Ólafsson – Something New Tour – six gigs down, four to go. Next stop: Wroclaw