Ragnar Ólafsson – house concert, Cieszyn; June 5th, 2017
Cieszyn was the halfway mark of Ragnar’s tour, concert seven out of 14. It was the second house concert,taking place at a beautiful apartment downtown. The audience was the quietest I have seen so far, really listening, even opening their beers during breaks in the songs. Yet, they were very responsive to all the stories, often laughing out loud. The show was lovely, alternating between soft and powerful, with lots of positive energy all the way through. Everyone really appreciated it and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Getting to Cieszyn was a little more complicated than I had expected. I only had five minutes to change trains and since my train from Pabianice stopped in the middle of nowhere for 20 minutes without any explanation, I missed my connection and had to take a bus. Luckily that stopped at the city center from where it was only a short walk to my hotel. This was one of the prettiest cities so far and after checking in I immediately went exploring. The city is also divided by a river that runs through it with the Czech Republic and the Czech part of the city Český Těšín on the other side. Needless to say I took a walk across the border just because I could. 😀
The night’s house concert happened right around the corner from my hotel. I was the first to arrive, but soon more people gathered and we must have been about 20 by the time the doors opened. It was a gorgeous, spacious apartment we were invited into with the microphone and amp set up in a corner. We gathered on the couch, available chairs and floor. Two women from Czech arrived. I knew them, but could not remember their names. I’d seen both at Árstíðir gigs.
Around 8:30 everyone was ready to go and Ragnar started with asking who spoke Icelandic. The answer was laugher. No one then, I guess. 😉 It was a low-fi concert, with just the small guitar amp and that worked perfectly well with an audience so focussed on listening. They stayed really quiet during the songs and only got loud in-between. After the first two songs, he told us about making a solo album, because all the break-up songs would not fit with any of his bands and that he hoped we would not mind the sad songs. I certainly don’t. ‘wine’ and ‘War’ both worked really nicely taken down a notch and without any sound effects. 🙂
‘Dozen’ of course needed a local singer to help with the song and this time it was Weronika, who was announced as the night’s surprise. 🙂 Ragnar told us how much he likes meeting local musicians and working with them. It shows during the duets every night and this night is was especially great. She did an amazing job, everything was right. I loved how the two songs change every night, get a different voice and hence take on a different life depending on how the part gets interpreted. It is always beautiful, but in many different ways. <3
When it came to singing along for ‘relations’ people were a bit shy at first, but once Ragnar explained how everyone should sing – the girls high up and the guys more manly down low, it all dissolved in laughter and everyone joined in. It worked quite well too. 🙂 ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ was introduced as an old song that did not fit Árstíðir or Ask the Slave. He made a comparison to the Austin Powers movie where all the guy can see is the mole in the other guy’s face – “I was like that ‘bricks, bricks, bricks'”. Funnily when the song ended, the birds outside where whistling in a similar key, just a little off. 😉
The question if we liked stories was answered with nods. People thought it was funny that someone can be a hippie and a cowboy. They especially laughed about the guns at first. Then the laughter got even louder during the description of the actual shooting with “when the bulled goes that way, the gun goes this way”. Everyone figured out where this was going. No matter how many times I hear that story it still makes me laugh and it is never twice the same. 🙂
Ragnar pointed out the special atmosphere at these house gigs. I agree, it is much more intimate than a club or bar gig, even if it’s the same number of people who come to see it. The low-fi approach also helps create something special. 🙂 The more depressing ‘Urges’ was followed by ‘Vegetate’ to balance the mood. It was the best version of the song I’ve heard so far. Perfectly ironic and fun to listen to. It is slowly becoming a favorite live song.
‘Petals’ was a perfect as it gets and I was quite happy to hear that Weronika would join us for the following night’s concert as well. 😀 Everyone in the room did well on saying ‘awwwww’ for hearing the next song was gonna be the last. ‘Scar’ was exceptional that night. One of the strongest versions I’ve heard. It amazed me how much Ragnar can do with just his voice and guitar when the song has so many different instrumental layers on the album. <3
He was soon back to ask if we wanted more and the answer was a resounding “yeah!”. We learned that Weronika’s dad would join on guitar the following day. That sure was something to look forward to. 🙂 ‘Bravery’ is always good though. This time it started off funny, because Ragnar kept changing the effects only to hear “you have to plug in the cable”. 😀 He blamed the wine.
Since he had to explain what murder ballads are we were treated to a full length version of ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ and the crowd sang along nicely, softly at first, then more daring and louder. It sounded great. I did not want this concert to end, but of course it did anyway and ‘Sleep now’ was the final song.
It took a while for the party to dissolve after. There were great brownies, cake and more wine. I sampled all the food, chatted, listened and finally said goodbye, slowly walking home in the perfect slightly drunk state to sleep well. And I did, dreaming of more concerts.
Urges tour Poland: 7 gigs down, 7 to go. Next stop: Oświęcim
More will come along
Every Brick in Manhattan
Where the wild Roses grow