Ragnar Ólafsson – house show, Żółtańce; August 24th, 2021
The house gig in Żółtańnce was a slow burner. It started out with a safe, reliable setlist and turned into an unusually long show with some surprising cover songs. It must have been the spirit of the friendly and beautiful house we were in, the lovely hosts and the attentive audience. It all made for a great show.
My trip to this show was absolutrly nerve-wrecking. After a wonderful morning at K.’s place with yummy breakfast, good conversations and some ukulele playing, I left Warsaw around noon on a direct train. All went well for the first two hours or so when we stopped in the middle of nowhere before Lublin and just stood there. Eventually I learned there was a train blocking the tracks that needed to be removed and nobody could say how long it would take. The train app calculated a two hour delay and considering it would be a 30 minute walk to the apartment I was staying at and from there another 45 minutes to the gig that was supposed to start at 7:30 it did not look good.
There was nothing I could fo but eat chocolate (thanks Raggi and Monika) and complain to K., who was bearing with me and kept up my spirits. When the train finally started moving only to stop again and the station and wait there forever to let other trains pass, I was ready to scream and seriously considered opening the wine I had with me. By the time we finally reached our destination, we were almost 2.5 hours delayed and I had less than a hour to get to the house concert if I wanted to arrive by 7. Taxi was the only option. Luckily, a friendly couple needed a taxi too and ordered me one. Thus I arrived at the apartment, had a quick bite, packed everything I needed and left for the gig in yet another taxi my friendly apartment host had ordered for me.
Made it to the house just before 7 powered by luck. The hosts were super friendly the house gorgeous and when I had grabbed a seat I could finally relax. K.’s and my banner was on display and the hosts had made tour T-shirts. Wow. I sat down, breathed and took in my surroundings. They had a dog and several cats running around, more guests arrived and I cracked open the wine. It tasted heavenly. Raggi and Kamila said hello and eventually I was calm enough to be ready for the show.
A little later than expected the host stepped up and introduced Raggi. Since the room had an upper level with a balustrade, he started up there, playing ‘Wine’. His voice and the guitarlele rang powerfully through the entire room. What a great start. He walked down the stairs and continued on the stage, introducing himself and then playing ‘SSDD’ for us. It sounded great too. Perfect balance, almost like a professionally mixed show. 🙂 A phone was ringing in the wrong key. For a moment I thought they had a bird too.
After the usual survey of who spoke Icelandic and who had seen him play before, he talked about his many different band (“about 1354 right now”) and the different styles of music he plays with them, saying that the solo project is his Singer/Songwriter side. ‘Deva’ followed, as awesome as ever. He told us about the three things he loves: 1. Polish Food, 2. playing music for people and 3. playing music with people – hence the many bands. He invited local singer Ola on stage to help him and said it felt like they’d known each other forever, even though they just met a few hours ago. ‘Dozen’ was wonderful. She sung it perfectly. 🙂
Raggi talked about how he had written his entire first album about a breakup and how it feels like an asshole move because she does not have the same platform. He joked that hence he wrote duets and had christened himself “Singer of democratic love songs”, pointing out the banner we had made. He wanted to know if we wanted to hear a happy love song or an angry one and people voted for angry. “Are you sure?” he asked and I confirmed “I am”, because I knew the angry love song was going to be ‘A Prayer’. He pointed out that there are many different love songs and that it’s hard to write happy love songs whereas with unhappy ones there is so much pain to draw from. Angry is different yet again and this one was about being angry with himself. ‘A Prayer’ was brilliant and made me happy with my choice.
He claimed that Icelandic food is the reason why all Icelandic music sounds so sad and that for new inspiration one has to travel. Of course ‘Bravery’ was next and it still rocks. This one works with any audience and they dug it too. Next we heard about Mexico and the city of Tequila while he retuned his guitar for ‘Time’. At this point I though “he is playing a really safe setlist today”, in a sense that there was no new or unusual song so far – I was so wrong! 😉 No complaints about the set so far either. Everything sounded great and he looked like he was enjoying himself. 😀
At the piano he asked how to say “autumn” in Polish and said that’s what the weather felt like. So true, it had been raining heavily all day and after temperatures in the high 20ies at the beginning of the tour it as now around 15 degrees. Someone said that this was Polish summer and he joked “You should see Icelandic summer!” Then he played a gorgeous version of ‘Water’ and I had to close my eyes while I listened. Without a pause he went straight into ‘Hugsanir’, putting all his heart and soul into it. The combination still hits me hard every night. Before he continued with Örlög’ he told us about “Fractures”. One of the cats came to check out the piano. I thought she was gonna jump on it, but she decided otherwise. Raggi jokes she was the band and told her to grab the guitar. We agreed to sing along and once again it sounded beautiful. ‘Örlög’ really works well for audience participation.
‘Petals’ was next, once again with Ola and he told us a little how the song has two people accusing each other of fucking things up. He remembered the Polish word for petals and explained how he tried to learn Polish and after six months still does not remember anything. People found that amusing. Then we went from funny to sad with the song and Ola did an amazing job on ‘Petals’ too. Wow!
He announced his last song and, following my lead, everyone “awww”-d. I went upstairs at this point, because I wanted to take a few pictures from that perspective. It was a great view. ‘Southern Nights’ was awesome with the audience divided into three groups and going strong on the sing-along, including some “Yeehaa!” 😀
We immediately demanded an encore and got it of course. This is where the surprises started. I did expect a replacement for ‘Rocketman’, but had no idea what it was going to be. Since Charlie Watts had just died, Raggi decided to play a Rolling Stones song, the first one he learned on the guitar, so we got ‘Angie’. I loved it! Then, because Kamila loves it and was not in Poznań, he added ‘Hero’. It was so much fun! Afterwards he joked about how he wants to ask Enrique what he thought when he wrote the song “So you sing for three minutes about her taking your breath away and you wanna be the hero – how does that work? Who’s the hero here?” Good question indeed 😀
When he then said “I’m gonna play my last song” we “awww”-d again and he invited Kamila to the stage to play piano. “I will take your breath away!” she declared when she sat down. Ola joined them and together the brought the show to a fun finale. Everyone cheered loudly and I went back downstairs, thinking it was over.
However, the cheering continued and Raggi decided to step back on the stage. WHAT? He talked about Ask the Slave and how he was gonna play us a metal song, then explained about murder ballads and decided to play ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ too. I had missed the murder ballad double just a little bit. 😉 It was awesome and some people sang along to ‘Where the wild Roses grow’. For ‘Sleep now’ he walked through the audience, which proved difficult, because by the stairs there was not enough space to squeeze through and keep playing guitar. 😉 He ended back on stage again. It was the perfect ending! What a show.
After everyone had gotten autographs and CDs and pictures and most people were gone already, I went and hugged Raggi. He picked up his guitar and said “You know, the happy love song I had prepared today was this” and played ‘The Dancer’ for me. <3 It was a pleasure. 🙂 Then we sat around for a while and even got some food. Before it was time to say goodnight, knowing we’d meet again the next day.
Angie (Rolling Stones)
Hero (Enrique Ingledias)
Where the wild Roses grow ( Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue)
First “we are all vaccinated now” Poland tour – 15 gigs down, 4 to go. Next stop: Rzeszów