Ragnar Ólafsson – Klub Stodoła, Warsaw; January 30th, 2023
My last day of the tour brought a wonderful concert in Warsaw at a great venue. It was a free show with a surprisingly small audience, but they were all very much into it and Ragnar’s support, Chris Ellys, was really amazing. Perfect sound and light did the rest and made the concert even better.
I had arrived in Warsaw the previous evening and spent a nice day at K.’s place before we went to the concert. There was a hold up at the door, because they did not want to let me in with my camera at first, but a quick message to Ragnar and Marta took care of that. Meanwhile, A. had joined us and we sat down upstairs, watching the stage and chatting. Ragnar came to say hello, told us about the previous day’s show and set up a camera to film the gig.
Around 8 we move close to the stage, in time to see Chris Ellys play. He had played with Ragnar in November as well and both K. and A. had told me it was great. Ragnar had described him as “very huggable, like a teddy bear” and he seemed very friendly indeed. They were absolutely right about the music too.I immediately loved it.
He has a powerful, slightly scratchy voice and his guitar playing is pretty damn good too. I can’t pinpoint my favorite songs, rather enjoyed listening to each and every one and immediately wanted to buy his music. What a wonderful start to the night. He got to play for 45 minutes and I would not have minded listening to him for even longer.
The audience liked it that he spoke Polish, even though he is from Slovakia. From the laughs I gathered that he didn’t do everything right, but he sure gave it his best shot. I was impressed. sadly for me, that meant I had no ides what he said about the songs. The lyrics were in English though and when I listened to them I liked them too. About halfway through, he asked us to come closer and people listened to him. It was even nicer when almost everyone stood in front of the stage. He certainly deserved all the cheers he got.
Army of Infinity
Never let me down
Shady Blue Dawn
Going up the Country
After a short break, it was time for Ragnar. He stepped up and greeted us in Polish before switching to English and telling us that he had just been to the venue to see Sólstafir. It lead to a story about a long way from the (very nice) backstage to the stage and comparing it to the Spinal Tap movie. Than he threw in some Polish phrases that made people laugh, but I never got around to asking what they meant.
Of course this let to the Poland album his working on and one of the songs he wrote for it, called ‘Warsaw’. I had loved it in Mianowice and felt that this night’s performance was even better. Not only was the sound perfect, but there is something especially powerful about playing a song you wrote for a city in that city. It is definitely my new favorite song, not only because he uses his baritone voice to sing it. I also really like the lyrics and didn’t even mind that he screwed them up at one point.
Afterwards he talked about another great city he had traveled to, where he loved all the brick buildings and played ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ for us. I had asked him about it, because he had played it at the last Patreon show. That question apparently had put the song on his mind and I was very happy to hear it. The whistling in the beginning showed just how good the acoustics were in the club.
Next up was ‘Deva’, played by request, but I am sure it would have been in the setlist anyway. Not complaining, it is a song I love very much and it still has a special meaning to me. 🙂 Ragnar mentioned that one of the reasons he loves playing Warsaw is because he gets to play with Julia Szkrobek and he invited her to the stage to join him for some duets. The first one was ‘Dozen’, the first song they had ever performed together. Needless to say it was perfect. <3
‘Minor Scratch’ followed and was even better. Small wonder it is one of his most popular songs It is a masterpiece. <3 He asked us if we were having a good time and we did indeed. Of course, there is no concert without ‘Bravery’: He mentioned that he had not played a single concert without this one and I nodded. I certainly have not seen any. The best part was, that he forgot how it started though. Everyone laughed. Second try, it worked just fine and even after hearing it so many time I still enjoy the song.
There was a piano, so he made use of it and played ‘Water’ for us. K. had requested it. The song is always amazing and made me take a deep breath and hold it to deal with all the emotions it brought up. It hasn’t lost any of its power since I first heard it. <3 There was no time to play any more piano songs so I was especially happy that this was the one that got played. Ragnar told us about recording string arrangements for the song just a weekend ago. I cannot wait to hear them on the final recording.
Next up, he spoke about living in Ƚódź and how a lot of people outside of the city are biased about he. Since he lives there part time though, he got to know it better and had to write a love song about it. ‘Ƚódź’ is a lovely song for sure and makes me want to actually get to know the city. Maybe I’ll visit for longer than just a few hours one day.
Julia joined him again for ‘Petals’ and it was awesome. ‘Message followed and sent shivers down my spine. It’s another song I never grow tired of, especially when sung with such a talented singer. <3 Ragnar asked who was seeing him for the first time and as people raised their hands, joked “Why didn’t you come sooner?” Then he spoke about why and how he writes song for his solo project and what brought him to Poland. Now it was time for the last song, ‘Dragonfly’ and Marta stepped on stage in her giraffe costume to play glockenspiel with them.
Everyone cheered and when Ragnar walked back on stage, he asked for requests. “A Prayer” I called out, because I had made the request before the show and felt he might have forgotten about it. First though, he played ‘Muddy Waters’ as someone else had asked for, complete withe the story of just having to write a Blues song when on the Mississippi river. Hell yeah! 😀 ‘A Prayer’ then, was introduced by speaking about the different emotions after a breakup and that this one covered anger. I loved it! <3
The last request had been ‘Sleep now’, but of course it could not come without the original murder ballad ‘Where the wild roses grow’. It is always good for getting in the mood and he does the suet well on his own. For the finale he stepped off the stage and into the audience, singing ‘Sleep now’ directly to some of us while walking around. There could not have been a better way to end the show.
Every Brick in Manhattan
Where the wild Roses grow
Afterwards I talked to Chris Ellys, told him how much I had enjoyed his music and where could I buy it. Turns out he has two EPs out that still can be found on Bandcamp. After that, we all got hugs from Raggi and spoke about how great the show was. We chatted for a while longer until we were kicked out and had to say goodbye. What a great night that was.