Ragnar Ólafsson – Meskalina, Poznań; October 29th, 2017
When I saw Ragnar was playing in Poznań once again, at the same venue he had started the tour in May (OK, almost started, it was the second gig), I had a good feeling about it. I had totally loved that place the fist time around and was happy to return it. I was not disappointed. Everything about this venue is right from the stage to the lights and sound to the audience. Needless to say the show was just right too. It was almost two hours long with all the songs I wanted to hear. What a great way to end this tour. 🙂
It was only a short trip from Kościan to get to Poznań so I could sleep late and did not have to leave before noon. I needed the sleep too and still felt tired when I woke up. The weather was shitty and fit my subdued mood. Once arrived I spent a few hours trying to find out about my wallet, hoping that at least some of its contents had been found, but no such luck, neither at the train station nor with the police. Kudos for the Polish people for their patience though, especially the friendly staff at several hotels who helped me along when I could not communicate. With a few hours left to kill and the cold outside getting to me I spent some time at the train station where it was warm and I had wifi.
Made it to the venue just before they opened, heard the last bit of soundcheck as I walked in and briefly said hello to Ragnar before he had to get ready for the concert. I got myself a tea and caught up on one of my blogs while I waited. The place filled up quickly, I saw that as a good sign. The made us wait past the time indicated on the ticket and started later, but I don’t think any musicians ever start on time 😉 Before they walked on stage I noticed whiskey and shots apart from the usual and wondered if they had a reason for drinking. We soon learned it was because it was the last gig of the tour. 🙂 Ragnar also told us that Poznań is his favorite city in Poland, before he even played one note.
The setlist was the same as the previous for the first few songs and again ‘Wine’ was played completely unplugged. Baldvin stayed in the background and Rganar decided to step on to a few chairs in front row and played from there. I loved it. Not only did I get an up close view, but it sounded great too. 🙂 I noticed then already and with many songs later how well people listened. They waited until they were absolutely sure the song was over before clapping. It had not always been like that at the other two concerts I saw. A quick poll showed that some people had attended the concert back in May and came back. With such a good audience it was easy to promised they’d play their hearts out for us that night and they made good on the promise. 😀
For ‘Dozen’ he called Victoria on stage to help him out and she did a wonderful job. I had heard a bit of it during soundcheck already and really liked her voice. Afterwards he asked us if we were ready to help him sing and someone asked back if he was ready for it which lead to much laughter. He stepped over to the piano and taught us the sing-along for ‘Relations’. We needed about two tries to get it right and nobody messed up during the song either. This might have been the most perfect rendition of this song that I have heard all year. <3
He talked a little bit about his other bands and introduced Baddi as his dragonslayer sidekick. I quite like that description. When Ragnar told us the story of ‘Bravery’ and mentioned John was half redneck, half hippie, half cowboy, half biker, I almost said “So he is two people?”, but bit my tongue for once. 😉 The thought of Jägermeister Vanilla still makes me shudder and it sounded like many people in the room agreed. It did not take much to imagine that this is the shot they serve you when you arrive in hell as he suggested. The song of course kicked ass. I love the power of it and I love the anger too. It is very ‘Darkness on the edge of town’ somehow. Did we have any requests? ‘Petals’ someone shouted from the back and I asked for ‘The Spirit of Man’, but he wanted to do both later so I noted that he was only waiting for us to ask for the song he was gonna play anyway. It was true, but sadly I blanked on the setlist so I could not do him that favor. It turned out to be ‘Urges’ and a great version too.
I did not turn around and check to see how many people raised their hands in responds to the question if we’d ever been heart-broken, but there must have been many. I know I did. Really, who hasn’t been? I also knew that ‘A Prayer’ was going to be next, but for once I chose not to film it and just listened. Oh my, it still gets me every single time. Next was an interlude about drinking on this tour and some banter with Bartek before Victoria joined them on stage again for ‘Petals’. “Beautiful” is not strong enough a word to describe that song. So much sadness, pain, resignation all in one, mixed with a hint of understanding that it had to be this way and coming to terms with it. This song is truly a masterpiece. <3
Of course we wanted to hear a metal song next and I got to hear ‘The Spirit of Man’ again. It was perfect, including a drums track they played for it. The best about it was Baldvin’s guitar work for it though. He poured everything he had into his playing. I believe it worked even better than the first time around. I really need to get a Lightspeed Legend concert soon! It made me smile when Ragnar asked us if we were tired. Hell no! So we heard more stories about traveling with John on the Mississippi and plans about a second solo album, ready before the next tour in Poland next year. Bartek shouted from the back that it was already in planning. Tell me more! A great version of ‘Needle and Thread’ followed. Slowly, but surely I am getting the lyrics down too.
When announcing ‘Scar’ he goofed up the quote saying “It’s a grinning scar…” and I just shook my head. He noticed right away and corrected it. What was more interesting was that he told us he was just writing the album from the heart, without listening to his inner censor and it made him write songs unlike anything before. Yes, I can feel that on the album. I did feel it on some other songs as well though and wonder how they happened and if maybe, without him noticing, the inner censor has been asleep as few other times too. Whatever the case, there are songs that I feel stronger than others, but it may have nothing to do with the way they were written.
They left stage, but did not wait long to come back. Ragnar asked us for more requests and someone said ‘Wine’ so he was like ‘Red Wine’. The answer “Whichever you want”. Well, since we had ‘Wine’ already, he sat down at the piano for ‘Red Wine’ saying it is the most depressing song he had ever written. One of them for sure, but I love the deep melancholia in it so I enjoy hearing it nonetheless. This night I could hear and feel the pain in those words. ‘Vegetate’ was a good choice to follow it. Otherwise people might have gotten depressed. His description of feeling sorry for himself and having a little angel on his shoulder whispering about things not being so bad after all did not fail to make me smile again. He even added a new line to the song about losing his car keys. 🙂
I asked for ‘Shine’, already guessing that might not work. He liked the suggestion, but said it was a hard song to do like this so I asked for ‘More will come along’ next which worked nicely. 🙂 I had not realized I had missed that song. He wanted to know if we were sure we wanted to hear more. Of course we were and got treated to ‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ next. It’s a shame that song has never been recorded.
I could have listened to more songs all night, but Ragnar said he was only gonna play two more songs, because after all that beer he’d need a bathroom soon. Someone suggested he could take a break now and then come back and play more. I seconded that notion, but he would not. We got the two murder ballads though, with a long explanation of what they are too. I might have made a few comments there as well. Somehow it was that kind of a night. 😉 ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ was much fun that night, even though not so many people sang along und ‘Sleep now’ is always great. Again, he stepped on the chairs, this time to my right. It worked really well and if he’d been up for it, he could have played more songs after. All the great concerts have to end though and this was as good as it gets. 😀
Afterwards there was time for chats and hugs and goodbyes. It had been a good tour and there will be some sort of repetition next year for sure. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go as well. For now I was content to have been there and did not mind the long trip home. Thank you for the great night, see you soon!
The Spirit of Man
Needle and Thread
More will come along
Every Brick in Manhattan
Where the wild roses grow