Song changes, full house and jokes gone wrong

Árstíðir – Kaffi Rósenberg Reykjavík, April 2nd, 2014

After the Christmas concert and Kex Hostel Kaffi Rósenberg was the one place in Reykjavík where I wanted to see Árstíðir – after all, this is where they had played for their friends in the “You just have to know of me” documentary so I knew the venue before I ever went there. I was lucky enough to find an affordable flight and find two vacation days I had planned but did not need for summer – perfect. It turned out to be a wonderful concert with two new songs, the guys in a great mood and many moments to remember. But who am I kidding? Not loving it had never been an option. 😉

I took the long way via Copenhagen this time, arriving in Reykjavík at 3 in the afternoon. There was just enough time to get downtown, find my guesthouse and freshen up a bit before I felt it was time to walk to Kaffi Rósenberg. Two other people arrived with me, speaking English – more foreigners come to see the guys? When we walked in, soundcheck was still in progress. I waved at the guys and Daníel smiled at me. Gunnar was nowhere to be seen and the others didn’t notice me. I dropped all my stuff at a table near the stage and made my way over to Ragnar who was sitting with his back turned, said hello and got the first hug of the night.

While the guys were finishing soundcheck I ordered food and contemplated which table to choose. They were done quickly and Ragnar came over for a chat. Later Karl joined him and they decided they wanted my help with the setlist. I could not give much input though, had no clue which songs might or might not fit together. I loved watching them work though and once the list was done I took a picture of it. Of course they changed it again 5 minutes later, but at least I have a record of which songs were played even though I can’t fully recall the right order.

While I sat at my table and wait for the concert, the two girls who walked in with me come over and ask me about the pictures I will be taking, because they had noticed my camera. One of them was from the Netherlands, missed the Árstíðir concerts in April and is now in Iceland for 4 month to work so she took her chance to come and see them. When I told her my website address she immediately asked “Are you familiar with Poets of the Fall?” – what are the odds? We had a nice chat about music afterwards, before they returned to their table in the corner. I am later joined by two Icelandic women, one of which tells me she knows three of the guys from the university choir back when they were still studying. 🙂

When Árstíðir walked on stage a little after 9 pm, the attention in the room completely shifted to the front. It was a typical café atmosphere and not as quiet as at gigs in a concert hall, but people were listening attentively. Of course they asked who didn’t speak Icelandic and luckily I was not the only one. 😉 I was smiling. I had dreamt of seeing them here for so long it still felt unreal to actually be in this place. It took a few songs into the concert before it started feeling real. I immediately noticed the guys were in a great mood though – much less nervous than two months before. The looked perfectly at home on that little stage as if they played there all the time. I watched each on of them in turn: Hallgrímur, who was so tired he looked like he would fall asleep leaning against his cello, yet still never missing a beat. Karl, alternating between sitting down and standing up with his violin, while controlling all sorts of effects with his feet. Daníel, on a high barstool, concentrated on picking his guitar yet smiling the entire time – he looked so happy that night. Gunnar playing the baritone guitar as if he’d never done anything else, he was occasionally wondering where to place the capo, but generally looking comfortable. Ragnar at his now accustomed place behind the piano, lost in the music more often than not.

The guys did not switch places and instruments any more. They have grown into their new roles. The one exception was ‘Orð að eigin vali’ where Karl sat down next to Ragnar and played the piano. As I watched it occurred to me that I now view them as a five-man band and briefly I wondered if anyone who didn’t know them before would notice just how much they have changed in the past year. Each one of them looked comfortable just where he was and I realized I like it that way. With many new songs and leaving out the old ones that needed Jón’s characteristic voice they had fully made the transition. This certainly works for me and while I miss Jón as a person, I do no longer miss him as a part of this band. I didn’t expect this to happen, but it made me happy that everything worked out so well. And with the new album coming up, the journey is just beginning!

This night was all about introducing new songs and telling new stories. Of course they threw in the occasional jokes as well. 😉 The joking has become part of the show and even though I’d heard them many times already, some still made me laugh. The funniest was when Gunnar tried to take away Daníels “Why was the math book so sad?” one and completely screwed it up, saying “Why did the math book have so many problems”. It caused a lot of laugher on stage and a giggle fit for me. There are no words to describe the love I feel for these guys. Whatever emotional rollercoaster they put me through it is always worth it. Nothing compares to the joy of watching them being one with their music or to being carried by their tunes until any worry I might have becomes meaningless.

The mixture of songs was just perfect. They played two sets and included nine new songs, seven of which they had already performed at Kex. I had been especially curious about the two songs I had not previously heard, but the biggest surprise was ‘Shine’. After hearing it so many time I thought it had reached its final form, but suddenly there was a new part in the middle with new lyrics. That came completely unexpected. I loved it and felt sorry not to have recorded this incarnation. Next time maybe, if it hasn’t changed again by then.

The first song of the night was ‘Látum okkur sjá’ – it made a great opener. ‘The Cannon’ was next, this time introduced by a story about Ragnar’s travel in the US and shooting guns in the desert, which resulted in a new scar on his forehead. Since his mom was there he stretched that he’d tell the “parent-friendly” version. Made me wonder what he left out. 😀 The song was just as beautiful as I had remembered and hit me just as hard. Another brand new song with the working title ‘Baltica’ followed. Karl elaborated that it had been written in a hotel in Bulgaria where they served very meal with strong tasting cheese on top. Every one of the guys added a bit about the cheese and how they got tired of it after two days. It must have left quite an impression. 😉 Either way, the song was pretty awesome.

‘Orð að eigin vali’ followed with Karl sitting next to Ragnar who wanted to watch and learn the part. It was just lovely to see them sitting side by side –maybe they’ll learn to play it four handed. ‘Júlilag’ was still every bit as beautiful as beautiful as all the other times I’ve heard it. This is one of the songs I absolutely hope will make it on to the new album. ‘Shine’ of course rocks every time and ‘Siðasta Kveðjan’ tears me apart. This time they played it because it had recently been requested it at a funeral and since the title means “Last Goodbye” it was fitting. I was quite happy to get to her it once again. ‘Days and Nights’ followed by ‘Shades’ brought the first set to a perfect end. I could hardly believe half of the concert was over already.

As compared to the last one I spent a bit more time walking around with my camera and taking in different perspective, i.e. at Kex I had not left my chair at all. I alternated between “work mode” and “fan mode”, but still stopped and listened often enough to truly enjoy the concert. Almost 40 concerts later Árstíðir still amaze me just as much as the first time around and I cannot see that ending any time soon. By now I know them well enough to have an idea of their routine, but they still manage to surprise me all the time. Hearing new songs develop is all sorts of wonderful and even when they play the same songs time and again that does not mean they will not change.

The second set started with ‘Ró’ which they claimed then, is named after Ragnar, “but we just use the initials”. It worked well and this time I didn’t expect any singing. The beautiful familiar ‘You just have to know of me’ followed, a song I’d miss dearly if they did not play it any more. ‘Eris’ was amazing. So far I really want every new song on the album and knowing they have 30 sketches they are working on I cannot wait to see what gets recorded in the end. After ‘Ljoð í sand’ the guys introduced another brand new song, ‘Vetur ad vori’ that had evolved as a mixture of two different songs. Karl joked that the original titles were ‘Anxious’ and ‘Self Portrait’ and gestured what and “Anxious self portrait” might look like. Ragnar told us a little bit about all the song sketches they have and when a phone rang, Gunnar joked “one had that intro” “but Nokia would not allow us to use the melody”. 😀 They had a bit of trouble with this one. Gunnar could not remember where the capo went and what to play so it was Daníel, Ragnar and Karl on this. It worked nicely though and I am sure this will become something great. I loved it already, rough as it was.

‘Moonlight’ seemed less sad than the first time around – it is growing on me. ‘Heiðin’ and ‘Nú gleymist ég’ ended the set and after lots of clapping and screaming from the audience they came back for a powerful version of ‘Kill us’ – it was a perfect last song to a perfect concert. 😀

Slowly people left, while I stuck around. Myrra Rós was also there and greeted me happily. I told her I’d see her on her tour in late May. I had the chance to chat with each of the guy before they left. Daníel was rather surprised to learn that I had come to Iceland just for this one concert. Really, don’t you know me by now? 😉 Leaving was the hardest part, but eventually everything good has to come to an end. With a final hug we said goodbye, knowing we’d see each other again in three weeks time. I am already counting down the days!


Látum okkur sjá
The Cannon
Orð að eigin vali
Júli lag
Siðasta Kveðjan
Days and Nights

You just have to know of me
Ljoð í sand
Vetur að vori
Nú gleymist ég

Kill us

pictures of this concert

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