Ragnar Ólafsson – Teatr Barakah, Krakow; September 4th, 2020
The Krakow concert was a strange one. It was technically an online concert with a small audience in the room, but we were so far away and so much in the dark that we could not even be seen from the stage. Of course we could interact and at least cheer loudly, but it was weird for everyone involved. Afterwards M. said that it felt like it was not one audience, but everyone in their own cage, isolated. It hit the nail on the head. Raggi, however played as if his life depended on it and delivered exceptional songs.
This tour is nicely scheduled, so instead of zig zagging across the country as usual, all the cities are easily reachable with a medium length train ride. This time, it took me two hours. Sadly, I woke up at six after merely four hours of sleep and no matter how hard I tried, my body decided I was done sleeping. By the time I arrived in Krakow I was so exhausted and irritated I crawled right into bed and took a long nap – much better.
Got to the venue early and went through my first Covid check of this tour. Had to fill out a questionnaire and even got my temperature taken. Said hello to M., Kathia and Kamila, had a drink and relaxed a bit until A. arrived and it was time to go in. I counted 18 seats in the room, all set apart about 1.5. meters and a few meters from the stage. The camera to film the online gig was small, but set up right at the center so I opted for a side seat.
Kathia had her own gig that night, but still played support for Raggi. She did a handful of songs for us and sounded amazing. The venue has terrible lights, but really good sound, if a bit loud. Each night I get to know her songs a little bit better which makes me enjoy them all the more. She played a perfect set, then had to get ready to leave. First though, she was going to join Raggi for a few songs.
After a short introduction he asked her to the stage right away and when she picked up the glockenspiel I knew they were going to start with ‘Dragonfly’. It mixed up the setlist nicely and worked well as an opening song. I was missing the cow though – Bartek was attending a different concert that night.
Raggi picked a good selection of songs for Kathia to sing, truly showing the range of duets he has written and picking one from every album, even the two that are nowhere near being released yet. Next up was a powerful version of ‘Message’. It was the obvious choice because the single had just been released. They performed it perfectly too. Goosebumps, always!
He told us about songwriting a travel, having lots of adventures on the wrote and telling stories about it. So of course after the Mississippi, he spoke about the trip to Mexico, the city of Tequila where the smallest bottle they sold was a ten liter container. No wonder the memories are hazy. 😉 The song was the last one he played with Kathia and I loved this version. He said goodbye to her and continued with the show.
‘Wine’ was next, played on stage this time, but still unplugged. Since he usually plays it early it always feels like an introduction to the show, easing us into it. This time it was the bridge between the musical guests, because now it was time for Jaga to join him on stage for ‘Dozen’. Since she had a few friends in the room, they cheered for her loudly even before the song. She did a great job too, it was well deserved. 🙂 The audience was rather vocal, commenting on the songs. Since I wasn’t sure if Raggi could see us at all, I hoped hearing us helped.
“I wanna do A Prayer” Raggi said and then explained that he meant the song, but this was his way of praying. That song is just so powerful, it always gets to me. In this setup it felt really eerie, like being sung in an empty room. I felt a mixture of anger, loneliness and despair in the song and it totally fit the vibes in the room at that moment.
Of course we got piano songs too. He started with ‘Water’ which made me close my eyes and had me take slow deep breaths, to deal with all the emotions. Little did I know it wasn’t going to be the only song killing me that night. It was so beautiful. <3 He immediately followed it with a brilliant version of ‘Shine’ that drove me to tears. All the sadness the song carries hit me full force. Raggi seemed a bit shaken as well, telling us how he wrote it after a death in the family and still finds it hard to perform.
He got a little break then, because he had to retune his guitar for ‘Time’. So he told us some Mexico stories and chased the sadness away. He mentioned that he wrote a song every day and this was one of the good ones. Someone asked if it was on the just released album, so he explained that it will be on a future one. I very much found myself in the song that night – the general spirit of it just rings true for me. 🙂
The guitar had to be retuned yet again for the next song and Raggi told us about the shitty Icelandic summed and claimed it had rained for 40 days and 40 nights – “elsewhere they call it a flood, in Iceland it’s summer!”. It made me laugh when he said how everything sucks in Iceland and that’s why all the music is so depressing. I as really tempted to comment on that. 😉 When the guitar was tuned he played the biggest surprise of the night, ‘Cannon’ – not only had I not heard the song in forever, it was an absolute killer version too. Just wow! <3
Raggi spoke about how weird Icelandic is and taught us a few words. This was the introduction to ‘Örlög’. Everyone was ready to sing along and it sounded great even with such few people. For the first time that night I felt a sense of connection with the rest of the audience. 🙂 ‘Bravery’ followed and he played it with lots of power. It must have been hard to get a feel for the gig that night. At least to me the distance to the stage seemed almost as far to bridge. And yet, I felt so much.
Jaga lent her voice once again for ‘Petals’ and did so beautifully. Everyone loved it. Afterwards, Raggi asked if we wanted to hear something cute or something heavy and since people could not decide I voted for both. So he wanted to know if I had any requests and the first song that popped into my had was ‘Walls’ – I was not prepared for this. 😉 It was fitting though, somehow I felt a bit sad and that song always captures the mood. The other song I thought of was ‘Scar’ and that happened to be the one Raggi chose to close the set with. Perfect! He got really into it too – there could not have been a better las song for this weird show! “Hell yeah!” someone yelled when it was finished and I could not have said it better myself.
There was only time for a brief encore, due to the tight curfew, but we could not go without ‘Southern Nights’. Instead of “I wanna play you” he said “I wanna do you” and then noticed what he had said. We got a good laugh out of it. He shortened the song to two verses and we got a nice sing-along going. 🙂
When the gig was over we didn’t have much time to talk, because Raggi had to work on another project that evening. I told him it had been a good gig, especially ‘Cannon’ and he mentioned that he had not really felt it, was disconnected. Somehow, he put all that into the music and made it sound all the better for it. It sure worked for me, strange gig or not. This was my halftime show so to speak, four more to go. 😀
Ragnar Ólafsson – m.i.s.s. is in town tour – four gigs down, four to go. Next stop: Chorzów