Árstíðir & Sinfóníuhljómsveit Norðurlands – Hof, Akureyri; November 29th, 2014
So I just came home from what might have been the best Árstíðir concert I have ever seen, for sure the best one this year. If anyone had asked me about this earlier this year I would have said “If you can only go to one concert, try to make it to the Christmas concert in Reykjavík. That one is really special, you won’t get anything like that elsewhere.” Now, however, I am 100% sure that this concert with the North Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra was the concert to be at this year and cannot be topped by anything else. No words are big enough to describe the beauty of it, so let me just say I bawled as soon as it started. Any fears I had had about possibly being at the point of having seen enough and any doubts if this could really be worth all the effort I made to get here, evaporated in a split second and when it was over I wanted to slap myself for ever thinking these thoughts. It was perfection on an entirely new level and everyone who got to witness this should consider themselves lucky.
It had been a long trip to Akureyri – due to the flight schedules I had to come here a day before the concert and would need two to get home. For a long time I had considered if it really was worth coming here, especially after it became clear that I would see their concert with the symphonic orchestra in Petrozavodsk. In the end I booked it anyway, but my doubts were renewed when Poets of the Fall announced two concerts for this weekend and I could have gone to both of them. Still, it was done, I was sure I would like it, didn’t allow myself any regrets and actually got really curious about it in the days leading up to the concert thanks to some really nice teasers. I was also happy I would hear Hallgrímur on cello once again.
As the time of the concert grew closer I got more and more excited about it, wondering what the night would bring. Roughly an hour before it was supposed to start I was at the venue, walking around, seeing who else had come there. Some seemed to be regular concert goers at the symphonic orchestra others were clearly tourists. Eventually I met E., N., Linda and later K. who had come to support the guys. On the way in we had to part ways though as their seats were elsewhere. I had one in second row, smack dab in the middle. WOW. The view was stunning, I could see almost everyone from there.
When the lights went down and the stage was in soft lighting I immediately knew this would be better than Petrozavodsk, even though I had not heard a note yet. First the orchestra took their seats and tuned in, then the conductor walked out and last the guys: Karl and Hallgrímur on the right, Daníel, Gunnar and Ragnar on the left. I could not see much of Ragnar at the grand piano, because Gunnar was blocking my view, but I heard him just fine. 🙂 They started with ‘You just have to know of me’ and when the orchestra set in, so did my tears. It was just too beautiful to bear. Since it was an Advent concert they had a few Christmas songs mixed in with their usual set and ‘Allt er hljótt’, their own Christmas single was the first of them, wonderfully sung. It was then I realized how much I had missed Hallgrímur’s voice in the mix – hearing him again was awesome and sad at the same time. Awesome, because that voice can make you forget all your troubles and sad, because he is only a guest in this band now.
The sound at the place was amazing and the lights guy deserves lots of credits too for creating a fitting atmosphere for their delicate music. Everyone around me was so quiet and listening so intently that I only dared singing along in silent mode. I was so caught up by the music that I forgot to breathe a few times and by the time ‘Days and Nights’ started the tears that had barely dried were back. Luckily the upbeat ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’ provided some relief and not only because it’s such a happy song, but because just seeing the guys standing there right in front of me made me smile. I must say what stuck with me most though were not the expressions on their faces which I’d describe as joyful seriousness (if that makes any sense) or the fact that they had all dressed sharp for the occasion, but Daníel’s red shoes, unusually bright among everyone else’s black ones, yet nicely matching the buttons on his shirt and Ragnar’s rolled up jeans, showing his striped socks – it just made me smile.
Right after these light and bright moments the emotional roller-coaster continued with ‘Lost in you’ and ‘Shine’ back to back. <3 Again I was so fully drawn into the music that I forgot everything else around me and only became aware of my surroundings again with the next Christmas song. When they announced the last song before the break I could not believe the first set was over already. How did we get there so fast? Interestingly enough I could mostly gather what they were saying, even though they spoke Icelandic. Of course I did not get the details, but I’m pretty sure I understood the gist of it. ‘Nú gleymist ég’ was a powerful way to end the first part of the show and it took me a short moment to gather my wits, get up and walk out.
I met the others outside and when asked if I was enjoying it all I could d was stammer “Yes, very much” and then added “This is so much better than Petrozavodsk”. Mind-blowing would have been a more fitting description, but the truth is that I was so full of emotions, I was unable to express any of them. All I knew was that this was the perfect place to be right then and there and that I would have regretted missing this. Soon the bell called us back in and everyone settled down, ready for part two.
It started with the guys standing at center stage once again, singing ‘Carol of the bells’ – it had been one of my favorites at last year’s Christmas concert and immediately brought all sorts of happy (and funny) memories. Let’s just say I had good reason not to look directly at the guys and catch their eyes for fear I might distract them. 😀 For the second time in less than two weeks I was treated to ‘Hvar’ and absolutely loved it. It’s one of those songs that I tend to forget about, because they rarely play it live and touring with them so much I don’t listen to the CDs all that often. However, in this setting and backed by a full orchestra it was absolutely amazing. ‘Ljóð í sand’ felt newer and fresher too and ‘Heyr, himna smiður’ was simply stunning. They could not have made a better selection for the setlist. Part two ended with ‘You again’ and ‘Things you said’, this time without the drums, but breathtaking nonetheless. Judging by the applause, the rest of the audience was as impressed as I was. 🙂
Absolutely everything about this concert was perfect, from the venue, to the songs, to every last player in the orchestra. Lights, sound or atmosphere could not have been better and I truly felt I had witnessed something special. Content with what they had given me so far, I would have been OK with leaving then, but instead I was treated to the most wonderful rendition of ‘And so it goes’ with just the guys singing and the entire orchestra sitting in the back listening. I teared up again and so the concert ended as it had begun, with happy tears.
Right after I was very lost for words and even though I had to wait a long time before the guys came out and I could finally say hello, hug them and tell them how wonderful it was, I still was not very coherent. The essence of what I said was that I thought it was the best concert this year (if not ever) and that it was so beautiful I cried. After that, words failed me. I also told Hallgrímur that I had not realized just how much I’d missed him. I fully respect that he chose a different path and I love the band in its current state, but I won’t deny how happy it made me that he was part of this very special concert. The guys were pretty emotional as well and they too, felt that this had been something unusually great that would be hard to beat.
As far as I’m concerned it was absolutely worth traveling almost 6000 km for and it was also worth almost getting stuck in Iceland due to a storm that arrived the next day. As if they had not done enough for me already, the guys saved me from that too, but it’s another story for another day. The one thing left for me to say is: Thank you, Árstíðir, for the most perfect concert, for your friendship, your kindness and all the good times.
You just have to know of me
Allt er hljótt
Á meðan jörðin sefur
Kom Þú, kom, vor Immanúel
Days and Nights
Góða veislu gjöra skal
Lost in you
Nú gleymist ég
Schedryk Schedryk (Carol of the bells)
Við dagsins hnig
Hátið fer að höndum ein
Ljóð í sand
Heyr, himna smiður
Things you said
And so it goes