Ragnar Ólafsson – Karrot, Warsaw; September 1st, 2020
It’s 1:20 pm in Warsaw, I haven’t nearly slept enough and I am in dire need of caffeine. I also have a huge smile on my face and for the first time in a very long time the tears I cried at night were happy ones. Finally I got to attend a concert again the way it’s supposed to be and for a few hours, all the fears I’d had recently vanished, while I thoroughly enjoyed myself. This was my much needed break.
Live music has always been my savior and my guiding light in dark times. So when that was taken away from me and with it the opportunity to meet my friends from every corner of Europe, it sent my into a downward spiral that I am only starting to get out of now. However, without last night’s concert and with it the opportunity to be around people I love, I might still be contemplating if this life is worth living any more.
When I planned the trip I spent a lot of time thinking about how to get there, because neither a flight nor a long train ride felt like a safe option. I the end, I decided to take the train, remembering my vow to opt for alternative travel to flying whenever I could. Thus, I was up at 4:30 and out of the house around 5 in the morning on my way to Warsaw via Berlin. Only when I had reached Berlin and was on the train to Warsaw, I finally relaxed, no longer worried about not getting there on time. By 4 pm I’d made it, checked in to my hotel and waited for the right time to go.
Arrived at the venue around 6, being greeted by M., Kathia, Julia, Bartek and Raggi. I watched soundcheck, got a drink and finally some long overdue hugs. <3 I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve missed those. We exchanged some friendly banter and ukuleles. Raggi needed one for a video and I lent him mine because it keeps in tune better than the one he had already borrowed. We chatted, said hello to A. and K. when they arrived and settled into our seats at the front just before the show started.
Kathia was back touring with Raggi and playing support at all the shows. She treated us to six beautiful songs, playing guitar and piano as well as using a loop station for harmonies and some effects. I was amazed by everything she did and truly enjoyed the music. She played Polish and English songs, all of which did not seem familiar to me and she even got to do a well deserved encore. 😀
Without any break, the show moved on to Ragnar and he greeted us in Polish. From what I gathered, he introduced himself and taught us a few words that are the same in Polish and Icelandic, but had a different meaning. His Polish lessons really pad off. The show started with ‘Deva’, dedicated to K. There could not have been a better start to the show. 🙂 The unplugged version of ‘Wine’ came as no surprise and made me as happy as it always does. Such a lovely song. I never counted how many guests were in the room, maybe about 20, but they sure made lots of noise.
Raggi explained to us how he wanted to be an author when he was younger, yet ended up being a storyteller through music, saying a song was like the “happy meal of storytelling” and how you can tell a lot in three minutes. ‘A Prayer’ followed, a great example of just that and a great surprise for me. I’ve always loved the power of that song and Raggi gave it everything that night. He was enjoying this as much as we were and whenever I looked over at A., K. or M. they looked just as happy as I felt. 🙂
We heard about how much Poland feels like home and the family Raggi found in Bartek’s agency and the musicians he met through them. He invited Julia to the stage to join him for ‘Dozen’ – having here there was great too. I love her voice and the way she sings those songs. <3 It was so good! We heard about the new album, ‘m.i.s.s.’ being released that day, but only in Poland, before the international release in one month. They sang ‘Minor Scratch’ for us and that was the point I completely fell into the music, breathing deeply and feeling it flow through me. Finally, what I love most in the world, was truly back in my life and brought me so much happiness I can barely put it into words. The song is perfection anyway, but that night it was extra special. <3
Raggi told us about being on a boat on the Mississippi, and then, this year, going to Mexico and how amazing the country was – “a bit like Poland, with spicier food”. 😉 Just as he wanted to start the song ‘Mexico’, there were sirens heard outside and he quipped that when you hear sirens in Mexico you run from the danger. “Imagine driving in a truck, with a glass of tequila in your hand”… the feeling of life being good really comes across in the song and he smiled at us Patrons while singing it. Julia joined him for harmonies, which sounded great. 🙂
Next up was a surprising ‘Scar’ – it felt like I had not heard that song in forever and despite Raggi playing it on his own, it was totally captivating. The song really gets better every time he plays it. He decided to switch to the piano and explained that both the guitar he was using as well as the pianos were Kathia’s. I was in now way prepared for what followed next. He explained how he always writes when he travels and had a motorcycle accident, but wrote about it before it happened. That could only mean ‘Water’ – on the piano! <3 I was so overwhelmed with emotions I could not even keep my eyes open. There are no words for how gorgeous this song is and how deeply it touches me.
Before we were even done clapping I recognized the first notes of ‘Shine’, which cut me just as deeply. It was an exceptional performance too. Just wow. <3 For those two songs alone it had been worth coming to Poland. 😀 It was back to the guitar for Raggi, his own this time, which was tuned differently. He gave us ‘Time’ and then ‘Palenque’, both Mexico songs and both fun. In between he asked us if we were tired, because he hadn’t seen some of us in a long time and wanted to make up for that by playing longer. No complaints here! We did a socially distanced high five for that. We also learned a little about Palenque, the place with the highest Mayan pyramids. It must have been impressive. The song then is about two lovers who met in a former life, because he felt a strong sense of déjà vu while being there. Right then and there, the song felt very fitting somehow, maybe because it has a line about being restored.
He asked if we had any requests and I told him I was happy with what he was doing. Nobody else had one either, so Raggi continues with ‘Bravery’, which is always a good addition to the set. Julia came back to the stage for ‘Message’ – it was stunning. The way they sing it together always gives me goosebumps. <3 The announcement about the next song being a love song was followed by explaining that in his other bands he didn’t sing love songs – for balance. 😉 Then they played ‘Petals’ and it was perfect as well. We had arrived at the last song and Kathia joined them for ‘Dragonfly’. Of course Bartek, in full cow costume with Christmas socks, had to be there too. We all had a lot of fun with it. 😀
There was no doubt we wanted an encore and we clapped and cheered until Raggi deemed it enough and came back. Bartek called for celebrations, because this was Raggi’s 100th concert in Poland. There were candles and a plum cake that was generously shared with us after the show. 🙂 “Do you want to hear one song, two or three?” he asked. Since when is that ever a question? We decided on three when someone in the back yelled “Seven!” I seconded. 😉
It was time for murder ballads and Kathia joined Raggi for ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ – he joked that she was going to be Nick Cave that day. It was great and so was ‘Sleep now’. It always makes me a little sad to know that the show will end after that combo, but this group of songs is so well suited for the end of the show that it just has to be done. Last but not least was of course ‘Southern Nights’ where Julia was back on stage and we all joined in for the choir. The show could not have been any better, I was so happy.
There were post gig hugs and long talks and a few glasses of wine with friends. This night finally restored me and was totally worth the slight headache and lack of sleep this morning. All is well that ends well and the best part is: There will be another show tomorrow.
Where the wild Roses grow
Ragnar Ólafsson – m.i.s.s. is in town tour – one gig down, seven to go. Next stop: Warsaw.