Ragnar Ólafsson – La Boheme, Warsaw; October 24th, 2017
The moment I saw “La Boheme, Warsaw” in the tour dates, I knew I wanted to be there. Back in June, the last show of Ragnar Ólafsson’s tour had happened at that venue and everyone who was there got a taste of the special magic it holds. It is a beautiful place with wonderful owners and it draws good people in. I don’t think anyone who loves art and music would be able to resist this. I certainly could not and despite this being a mid week concert I immediately decided to go. It was absolutely worth it! Ragnar and Baldvin, his friend and colleague from Lightspeed Legend, entertained us for almost two hours. In addition to Ragnar’s solo songs, this included songs by Ask the Slave, Árstíðir and Lightspeed Legend, spontaneous duets, sing-alongs and cover versions as well as lots of banter, stories and laughter. Everyone in the room had fun and the excellent wine most of us drank sure did not hurt. It was a great night I would not have wanted to miss. 🙂
As opposed to my usual trips this one did not start insanely early and I arrived in Warsaw well rested. After checking in to the same hostel as last time, I contemplated what to do in the grey and cold weather (sadly I had not managed to bring our late summer from Germany and encountered winter here). There was a pool nearby, so I went for a nice swim, then opted for relaxing at my hotel instead of exploring the city. It was just one of those days…
Arrived at the venue in time for soundcheck and was there to hear Raggi and Baddi rehearse “The Spirit of Man” from their Lightspeed Legend album. What a treat! I had wanted to hear Lightspeed Legend live ever since the album came out, but had not had the chance yet. Who cares if this was only part of the band? It was the important part. 😉 The rest of the soundcheck was fun to hear too, the hosts at the venue were wonderful as ever and once the doors opened I was surprised to see S. and her friend M. arrive from Vienna. 🙂
After having Kjartan on the UK tour it made me quite happy to have Baddi here. It adds so much to have a second guitar on stage. Of course the songs work beautifully played solo, but it offers so many possibilities to have two guitars. I loved watching and hearing Baddi play. His style is totally different from Kjartan’s, very much staying in the background even when the spotlight should be all on him. He is a master of understatement. 🙂
They started a little late, but not quite Icelandic time and before they did they were sitting by the side of the stage chatting and laughing. I would have loved to know what was so amusing. 😉 ‘SSDD’ has really grown on me in the current version and I don’t mind having it as the first song of the show at all. It’s a good start and fits well, leading into the quiet ‘Wine’ that Ragnar played totally unplugged, standing on the edge of the stage. <3 ‘War’ was quite powerful after that. I already liked the setlist and everyone in the packed room seemed to agree. Nick Cave was playing Warsaw the same night so I thought less people might come, but I was wrong. It was a full house once again.
Unfortunately the singer for the female part of the duets had called in sick, so Ragnar decided to do ‘Dozen’ on his own. In the audience was Alicia, who had sang with him in Krakow last June and she picked up the lines halfway through, singing from her seat. What a nice surprise. 🙂 ‘Bravery’ just kicks ass with two guitars, ‘Urges’ was great and I can never get enough of hearing ‘A Prayer’. It is such a powerful song and it speaks to me on many levels. He explained that it’s about the thoughts going around and round in your head that you cannot stop, but that do not get you anywhere, because they are always the same.
He talked a lot that night, some stories I had already heard and some changed ones. I loved them all, like the way he tells them. People understood too and there was lots of laughter all night. 😀 ‘The Spirit of Man’ was brilliant. Funnily enough it is one of the songs on the album that I never really payed much attention to, but this version was a killer and made me appreciate it. I need to listen to it more so I can sing along next time. 🙂 ‘Scar’ ended the set, much too early for my liking. Everyone agreed – the guys needed to be back on stage and play more.
They were back for ‘Needle and Thread’ – I still don’t have the lyrics down, but I sure love the song. Ragnar told us it will be on his second solo album. Wait a minute, didn’t you never want to do a solo album in the first place? Either way, I will be looking forward to it. This one will have more major keys he promised. Fine with me, I don’t mind songs in a minor key though. He wondered what to play next and asked Alicia if she remembered ‘Petals’. She said some of it so he called her on stage to join him. It was a bit improvised, but nice to hear anyway. ‘Sleep now’ was announced as the last song, but he never had a chance and we cheered him back to the stage.
Baddi did not join him this time and he came in with a rocking horse he had found outside while waiting to come back. The venue owner brought him a sheep to sit on and he actually did even though it wasn’t that comfortable. What our requests were? S. asked for ‘Red Wine’ which he declined and someone wanted to hear “Something Icelandic”. He played ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ sitting down, while thinking about an Icelandic song. He settled for ‘Heyr, hymna smiður’ which was beautiful. It might have been made to be played in a train station as he claimed, but it worked just as well in front of a picture of one (as could be seen on the wall behind him and was pointed out by S. later). We than got a surprise version of ‘Ljoð í sand’ (“Don’t film that. I’m kidding.”). It was great and afterwards he tried to leave once again. Not yet!
We had to cheer and clap longer this time, but eventually Ragnar realized he might have to play more and he did. Any requests? I said that he had not played ‘Vegetate’ yet, so we got that one. It took three tries, because the guitar was tuned wrong and the capo was not where it should be. By the third time we all knew the lyrics of the first few lines. 😉 Then I asked for ‘The Dancer’, thinking he might not be up for it, but he liked the suggestion and told everyone how he played me the songs long before they were released. It worked well too, I was happy to hear it. We also learned that the “I went to a show and fell in love with a dancer” is true, because his parents took him to a play and that’s what happened. Not everything is a metaphor. 😉 During the encores some people arrived who had been to see Nick Cave so we got ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ as the final encore. It was a fitting losure to the night and we did let him go after and ended with an almost perfect sing-along as well. 🙂
There was more wine and chatting and memories of the last time we had been there after. He also told the full story of recording ‘Dozen’ and how the studio was not available so he had invited Aldís, whom he had not seen in years to his place to record it. Trying to figure out a place with good, isolated sound, he settled for the bedroom and to make the sound better he closed the curtains. It did not go over that well. 😛 Now I finally understood why everyone had been laughing so hard when he told the story in Reykjavík. 🙂 There were lots more stories shared before we finally said goodbye with many hugs. It was a great night and totally worth being dead on my feet at work the next day!
The Spirit of Man
Needle and Thread
Every Brick in Manhattan
Heyr, hymna smiður
Ljoð í sand
Where the wild roses grow (Nick Cave cover)