Ragnar Ólafsson – The George Tavern, London; October 3rd, 2017
After the wonderful CD release gig in Reykjavik I had been counting down the days to London. Luckily it was only one week later. 😀 Knowing Ragnar would perform with his friend Kjartan from In Siren on guitars I was curious how the songs would change again and wondered which ones they would play apart from the album songs. I already knew it was going to be a lot of fun and I was right. The pub was great, with lovely staff and an even better audience. It was not packed like some of the concerts in Poland had been, but everyone there was listening attentively and that, in my opinion is worth a lot more than a bigger, but disrespectful audience. I loved the concert from start to finish and was happy I had decided to go.
Everything was relaxed from the start. I had arrived the previous evening and enjoyed the beautifully sunny London weather all day. Checked the pub around 6 pm, ran into Ragnar, learned they were not starting before 8 and left again to return later. It had never stayed in that part of London (Whitechappel) and there was a lot to see. My hostel as walking distance from the pub too, so not matter how long the night was going to be, I’d be in bed about half an hour after it ended. 😀 When I returned it still did not look like it was going to start any time soon so I got myself a drink and settled in, watching the other people in the room. Not so many people showed up, but they were all interested enough to sit close to the stage, ready to listen.
Tom Hannay was the support act and when he walked on stage all the attention in the room shifted there. He started his set with a cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’. That certainly was unexpected. It worked, but was a bit slow for my liking. After that he played his own songs and I enjoyed those a lot. He entertained us for half and hour or so, getting us in the mood for what was about to come. 🙂
First there was a break though with enough time to get new drinks and to chat a bit with Linda and her housemates Lisa and S. who has come to see the concert and in Lisa’s case to sing. Eventually the house music died down, Ragnar and Kjartan stepped on stage and started playing without further ado. ‘SSDD’ was first, including great slide guitar work by Kjartan. Everyone was really quiet so Ragnar decided to play ‘Wine’ acoustically without the microphone like he had in Reykjavik. It worked beautifully. <3
After ‘War’ he explained that it was originally a metal song but then he felt the need to contrast the darkness with the cuteness of a ukulele. The song is always powerful, no matter how it is played. I was too slow with my camera when Kjartan started playing the first notes of ‘A Prayer’. It still kills me every time. I can’t really say what it is about the song that gets to me, but I feel like the knife he sings about is stabbing me straight into the heart. So many emotions there, I needed to take a deep breath when it was over.
Somehow mentioning Kjartan is a local of Brighton these days lead to a discussion about football and him being an arsenal fan. 😀 They continued playing the songs in the order of the album with ‘Relations’ on guitar this time and then the amazing ‘Bravery’, another song that truly benefits from the second guitar. <3 Kjartan is an amazing player for sure. Of course it came with the usual US travel story and we learned it was the one song that was written earlier than the rest of the album. We also learned that they lived on spam and burritos while traveling. Does not sound like the most healthy diet to me, especially not combined with Jägermeister Vanilla, but what do I know? 😉 What I do know is that bad alcohol does not inspire bad music as Ragnar suggested.
When ‘Urges’ ended everyone clapped at the break before the final line, which lead to jokes about being premature happening to other guys. 😉 Next Ragnar introduced Lisa and told us how he found her through Linda, when the singer, who was originally going to help him didn’t come. We got to hear the full story of the song from realizing he had written a song for two characters accusing each other to Gunni suggesting Aldís out of the blue. I love this song in every incarnation and Lisa did a great job on it. <3 They thanked each other and hugged before she left the stage.
We all knew the feeling he described when introducing ‘Vegetate’. The part of you that looks at you even in the deepest of depression and says “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad”. I still remember how it didn’t speak to me at all the first time I heard it, but it’s really grown to become one of my favorite live songs. 😀 It even lead to some laughter. No ‘Petals’ that night so ‘Red Wine’ was next, because we all wanted to hear a depressing song on the piano as Ragnar phrased it. The das mood it created was gone immediately when he told us he had one more song to go before the encore. He was so sure there’d be one that people laughed. ‘Scar’ was the perfect song to end the set and of course we wanted that encore.
I wondered what it was going to be and hoped for ‘Needle and Thread’, but instead it was ‘Sleep now’ including the full story about it being Ask the Slave’s only non-metal song. I love that song though and I loved that Ragnar played it without mic, even walking around a bit. The guitars were great too with an amazing solo towards the end. <3 Thus, I was a happy camper, even though I felt I was too short, but I would have felt the same after three hours. 😉 For introducing the music and the album it was just right and the audience seemed to agree, cheering loudly.
Some of us stayed for drinks and I had a great conversation with Linda about traveling, my current age crisis and the things you learn as you grow older. We also had lots of reasons to laugh, reminiscing about last year’s Airwaves, the Poland tour and joking about frog orgies and hedgehog gang bangs. Eventually it was last call and they kicked us out, with the bar keeper telling us that we didn’t have to clean up, she did. Ragnar suggested she’d give him a broom to help and I joked she should take his word for it, but she would not. So we left and said goodbye. On the way out, Kjartan gave me some pointers on things to see in Brighton. We hugged and headed home. It was a great night, see you in Brighton.