That night we went down to the river

Ragnar Ólafsson – KD Střelnice, Vrchlabí; Febuary 27th, 2020

You know it’s been an amazing night when by the end of it you have sung Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ at the top of your lungs with your friend, whom you’ve always been shy to sing in front of because he’s a musician and actually knows how to do this. Yep, this happened and despite my memory being just a little bit hazy I will not forget it. The  concert Ragnar played in Vrchlabí was fun too, but the after show jam session will remain the highlight.

Compared to the other days on this tour, this one started early, because I had a long trip ahead of me. It’s not that Vrchlabí is far from the Czech/Polish border or far from Wroclaw for this matter, but the connections between countries are shitty and after checking all the options I had to do what I had to do. So it was a 9 am bus to Liberec and three trains from there. I made all the connections and arrived on time. At 17:30 I reached my hostel, filled with German teenagers on a skiing trip and their teachers. Oh my, the volume. 😉

Got ready, had a bite to eat and left, since it was a 25 minute walk to the venue. On the way I encountered one of my pictures of Ragnar turned into a poster to advertise the gig. I had two separate reactions to this: It made me smile, because it looked good. It also made me slightly angry, because nobody had asked for permission to use my picture and I somehow doubted it had come to the venue via Ragnar or Bartek – by now I know the promo photos they use and mine isn’t one of them. When I finally got to the venue I got confirmation – I asked where they got the picture and the answer was a lame “I assume from Bartek”, but it didn’t sound right, especially because they got shifty when I said I’d ask him and that it wasn’t OK if the picture had come from somewhere else. I really don’t mind my pictures being used, in fact I am proud when someone wants to use them, but it really annoys me when people don’t even bother to ask and think everything they find on the internet is free. My pictures are watermarked for a reason.

That out of the way, I found myself a front row spot (how is it that people so often want to sit anywhere but the front?), got a glass of wine and settled down. It was an early show, starting just after 19:30. Like in Poznań, Kathia Polrolniczak was supporting again and did a marvelous job. I love her voice and her songs. I’d been hoping I’d hear her introductions in English this time, but she asked which language she should speak and people voted for Polish. Oh well. Every song she sang was beautiful and soon I felt a lot more relaxed and started smiling. She played three songs in English and one in Polish. One of the songs she had just written the previous day. Her music was perfect to get me into the right mood.

Without so much as a break, Ragnar stepped on stage, wine glass in hand and ready to roll. He played it safe, setlist wise and I had the feeling he was nursing a hangover, but that didn’t spoil the concert at all. He was definitely emotional about playing in Czech Republic again, because he has so many good memories from the Árstíðir tours there. Before he started playing he said that listeners were just as important as the person singing and asked us all to help him get in the mood by singing one note, like a hum “hmmmmmm”. It worked beautifully to underline ‘SSDD’ and I remembered he’d done that once before somewhere.

Once again the chair to my left was empty and Ragnar stepped on it while he played ‘Wine. He had a bit trouble controlling his voice at the beginning, but it got better after a while and he just put more power into his singing. 🙂 He was less talkative than at some of the other shows, telling only a few stories this time. So we didn’t get any background on ‘Deva’ this time and ‘Dozen’ was just introduced as “a cute song about heartbreak”. There is no ‘Bravery’ without the story though and I’d miss it if it wasn’t there. He described the Jägermeister as “full of sugar and the sweat from the armpits of Donald Trump” – ewwww! I had a good time singing along to all the songs, trying to do it quietly.

After the first five songs, Ragnar moved over to the piano for ‘Relations’. People seemed skeptical about singing along at first, but then got really into it. I liked it. ‘Red Wine’ was absolutely brilliant – very emotional and powerful. It was my highlight of the night. <3 The audience was really listening and they sure were laughing a lot too. When he checked the setlist on his phone he started joking about reading emails and taking selfies. It was funny! This time, when asked what we wanted to hear, the vote was for a bluesy song so he played ‘Muddy Waters’ for us. It was the perfect fit for a hungover night – “stamina and alcohol”, right?

After that, we were even up for singing in Icelandic. A bit of doubt set in when he joked what our part was gonna be and said some complicated sounding words in Icelandic. We all laughed at that and then did really well with the “lalala” part we actually did have to sing. It always sounds really nice. <3 When he started talking about Bartek I could not believe it was time for ‘Dragonfly’ already – how did we get there so quickly? This time, Kathia joined them too, playing glockenspiel while Bartek played the tiny keyboard. They had lots of fun with it and so did we. Cow costumes for the win!

Kathia stayed for ‘Petals’, bringing us to the encore. Of course I said “ooooh” when he told us they were down to the last song. He asked us to do it again and everyone else chimed in too. 😀 The song brought the set to a beautiful end and soon enough Ragnar was back with ‘Southern Nights’. He told us it needs to be played on ukulele, because it is such a happy song and it is impossible to play sad songs on that instrument. I disagree, but maybe he hasn’t heard that yet. 😉 When he told us what to sing he added a “yeehaaa!” in the end which caused a lot of laughter again. We managed this sing along nicely too. 🙂

The murder ballads were the last two songs and this time Kathia helped out, with Ragnar joking she’d sing Nick Cave’s part. It worked well, I loved hearing ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ as a real duet this time. <3 As almost always it ended with ‘Sleep now’ and as always I enjoyed it a lot. It is so much fun to sing along to. 🙂

Some people stayed, a few bought CDs, I chatted with Ragnar and got confirmation that he was indeed hungover. He also told me that the promoter had apologized to them for using my picture and they’d take care next time to tell people not to use any pictures they got elsewhere. Fine with me. 🙂 We talked about other stuff too and then I got introduced me to the owner of Meskalina and we chatted for a while. Then, somehow, one of the people who were left got Ragnar’s guitarlele and started playing some Czech song with everyone singing along. We joined them, Ragnar got his guitar and suddenly we had a jam session going. Everyone threw ideas out there and they just played whatever they could manage. Somewhere in there I suggested Bruce and got ‘The River’, but it was only Ragnar and me singing, with me having to remind him of some lyrics. It worked perfectly and I had a blast. <3 Other songs were U2’s ‘One’, The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ and of course Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’ with Bartek on Glockenspiel. 😀 Later the whole party moved over to the piano, drinks were flowing freely and we all had a great time. Last song of the night was Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin on a Prayer’. 🙂 After lots of goodbye hugs I finally stumbled home, happy to have Googe maps to guide me. What a great night that was!

pictures of this concert


Red Wine
Muddy Waters

Southern Nights
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

Ragnar Ólafsson – Something New Tour – eight gigs down, two to go. Next stop: Walbrzych

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