Ragnar Ólafsson – house concert, Wroclaw; February 26th, 2020
I can safely say that the house concert in Wroclaw was the reason I decided to do the second half of the tour. I had applied for a spot just in case and when I got it realized I really wanted to go. Since I already had Krakow / Orzesze and Blazkowa planne and it really did not make sense to travel back and forth between Germany and Poland three times ion the same week I decided “what the hell, I’ll just do all of the ones in between too”. So here I was, in a house in Wroclaw, on the outskirts of the city, pretty close to the Darkness on the Edge of town (i.e. the “you are now leaving Wroclaw” sign) and there was no other place I would have rather been. It was my second show on this tour where Julia Szkrobek played with Ragnar and the most emotional one yet. A truly amazing night.
Being on the outskirts of the city meant there was only one bus going that way, roughly once per hour, which did not leave me with a lot of options. I got there too early and decided to take a little walk, following an eerie yellow light for a while. When I hit the “end of Wroclaw” sign I had to turn back, because there was no longe a footpath. I never found out where the light came from, but someone later told me it might have been a green house. Either way, the closer I got, the more green it looked, at least on the pictures I took until it was similar in color to Northern lights. I liked the idea and posted it to Instagram, then found the right house and was in a huge living room soon after. Said hello and talked to Ragnar for a little while. He had received news that our friend K. (not the one from Warsaw) was in the hospital with heart problems and immediately had me worried too. I messaged her,trying to send some good vibes.
Around 8:30 or so everyone had settled down, but I was the only one who sat on the floor right in front of the stage. That didn’t bother me though, it was the best seat in the house. There was so much space, my guess is 15 more people could have fit easily. The hosts had even made some tickets for us. Nice touch! Bartek stepped up and announced Ragnar. I am starting to recognize words in what he says, but I still cannot make sense of Polish. 😉 The essential info was that there was a hat to go around at the end of the show for us to throw money in. Yep, can do.
As in Poznan the previous night, Ragnar started with ‘Southern Nights’ and it worked out great. He seamlessly integrated the story with the song and also got us to sing without much of an effort. We did so well he claimed he liked it better than Warsaw and Bartek chimed in”I told you everything is better than Warsaw”. 😀 He switched ukulele for guitarlele and continued with ‘Wine’, stepping out into the room and using the space he had, but still standing right next to me for a long time. <3 The acoustics in the room were pretty good, if slightly echo-y at times.
Julia joined him for the next few songs and we learned that they had already sang at two radio stations that day. For ‘Dozen’ he introduced a newly bought toy, a tambourine he could attach to his shoe. To my surprise it worked nicely.He is slowly turning into a one man band there. 😉 Julia was excellent of course – it is just amazing how much she adds to the songs. With her there is this extra layer of emotions. <3 ‘War’ followed. That had not been on the setlist since Gdansk and I liked having it back, especially with Julia’s vocals in the mix. 🙂 Ragnar told us how surprised he was when his solo project brought out a different side of him, after playing in so many metal bands and liking loud music. For the solo songs, silence just fits much better and is a good thing he embraced it.
‘A minor Scratch’ did it – hit me just as hard as the first time I heard it and I was crying. What a gorgeous song this is. I cannot get enough of it. <3 The sadness disappeared quickly when Bartek reminded Ragnar that he’d promied to tell the audience what “ras” means in Icelandic, so he explained. I still have no idea what it means in Polish, but I now know it means “asshole” in Icelandic. ‘Bravery’ was next and apparently he was a changed man after that Jägermeister. 😉 Still feeling the taste of it sounds terrible, but I still hope he does not take the song off of the setlist any time soon. It is just too much fun! From there, with no announcement, he went straight into ‘Water’ – wow, what a change in pace and emotions. How can something be so sad and so beautiful at the same time? <3
From sad to angry, he announced ‘Scar’ and dedicated it to K., because she had requested it for that night and it was his way of sending good wishes. I made sure i filmed it so I could send here the video later. He went all in for it, with passion and power. then ended it on a soft note and wished her well in the end. 🙂 For ‘Relations’ Ragnar moved over to the piano in the corner without a microphone. We could still hear him well and not being amplified added to the dramatic mood of the song. I liked it and we managed a really good sing-along too. It was very much in tune. Bartek did the best to move the lights, while he was at the piano and then moved them back as he returned to the stage, so his many talents were praised.
We heard about Mexico and how happy he was there, writing songs every day. Julia joined him again for the song of the same name and I liked her addition to the song – it is growing on me. Considering what ‘Southern Nights’ has turned into since I had first heard the rough first version, I have great expectations for this one too. 🙂 He did not speak about Patreon though, as if he’d forgotten about it. I wanted to remind him after the show and then never did. That night we really went back and forth emotionally between happier and sadder songs, continuing with ‘Petals’ – It worked well and hearing Julia on this one is always a treat. 🙂
The time came for more singing along with ‘Örlög’ and Ragnar joked that “lalala” means “hello and goodbye” in Icelandic, then instructed us to put our own thoughts into it. I guess we all did – it sounded great for sure. We heard more about Bartek’s many talents as an introduction to ‘Dragonfly’ and now he apparently even played glockenspiel. Ragnar is certainly collecting many new toys on this tour. I believe he started the tour with guitar, guitarlele and mini synthesizer, but by now there was also a ukulele, the tiny tambourine and a glockenspiel. Might be good that the tour is over soon. 😉 The song was light-hearted and fun. In my effort to capture the moment when both Bartek and Ragnar stepped out from the stage, I ended up lying down on my back. It was the best I could do. 😛 ‘The Message’ ended the set this time, goose-bump inducing as it always is. It was the second time that night after ‘Water’ that I was so moved I was close to tears. It was truly powerful and I could not have imagined a better last song.
What a perfect night! I was really sad that it was already coming to an end. Sure, we got encores, but most of it was sadly over already. We needed to cheer for it though and Ragnar had some fun conducting us. he then went into a detailed description of ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ as the best example of a murder ballad, digging into the lyrics a bit and how mind blowing the whole song is. Julia helped him out on this and looked positively shocked when he joked that she was going to be Nick Cave’s part. They did it perfectly, ending on a whisper. 🙂 ‘Sleep now’ then started with one, after he’d stepped out into the living room and was looking straight at me. I mouthed the lyrics right back to him, then sang along softly as he played the guitar louder and eventually moved away from me and further into the room. Julia helped on this one too and did the “I love you” part. In the end he stood on the stairs that led to the upper floor and sang from there, looking back at the room. Everyone loved it and I’m sure we would have liked more, but it is always the final song.
I had truly enjoyed this night. Next to Bielsko-Biala and Puszczykowo it was my favorite one so far. We talked for a bit, I got to share drinks with the hosts and some other people, said goodbye to Julia when she left and got a final hug from Ragnar before I had to go and catch the last bus back into the city. The night was shorter than some of the others, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes it is nice to get some sleep and I had an early start the next morning.
A minor Scratch
Where the wild Roses grow
Ragnar Ólafsson – Something New Tour – seven gigs down, three to go. Next stop: Vrchlabí