Ragnar Ólafsson – Dillon, Reykjavik; April 26th, 2018
Sometimes spontaneous concerts are the best, remind me of everything that is important and why I am on this journey in the first place. When I found out about two weeks ago that Ragnar Ólafsson was playing a gig at Dillon in Reykjavik I have to admit that my first thought weren’t exactly happy ones. They went more along the lines “Why does he always have to announce these gigs so fucking late that it’s impossible to get there?” Yet never one to give up easily and already considering to rebook my flight for the weekend for other reasons, I first went to check how impossible it really was, because somehow I felt I just had to be there. Well, it did turn out to be doable and I was right. I had to be there. Not only did I get to witness the premiere of a new song, it was also a wonderful concert overall, where everything fell into place and my longing for Iceland that I’d felt since winter was at least lessened a little.
I flew in via Finland and felt like a proper time traveler, first going one hour into the future and then three into the past. Of course travel took longer than that, but it was still messing with my head. I left home in the morning, had a flight at noon, spent a total of nine hours traveling and waiting from there and still made it to my hostel before 7 pm. Felt ready to go to bed too, but instead I got ready, had some food and headed out to Dillon for the concert.
After getting there I spent some time on the stairs, listening to soundcheck before I walked in and said hello. Sólveig, David and Ragnar were just rehearsing a brand new song he had talked about playing tonight. It was perfect timing on my part and the song was beautiful. I got to sit around and watch, all the while smiling happily. Said hello properly when they were done, then relaxed with a cider until show tlme.
I had expected them to start at “Icelandic 9”, but they actually started about 15 minutes past. Ragnar asked right away who did not speak Icelandic and to my surprise I was not the only one. So he told David he was lucky and they’d stick with English for the night. Thus, the usual banter unfolded. 😀
For the first time in a long time ‘SSDD’ was announced as meaning “Same shit, different day” and we were off to a good start. Before ‘Wine’ Ragnar told us how he tried recording the song with a band but it refused that treatment so he ended up sitting alone at Toppstöðin recording everything with just one mic the day before the album deadline. To play it, he unplugged the guitar, stepped off the stage and stood right next to me. It was wonderful. <3
Just before ‘Deva’ started, some late guests arrived and walked right in front of my camera while I was filming. Luckily there was no music yet so I can cut that part. 😉 We learned that the song may get some big arrangement on the album. I’m all for it. This one sounds a lot more interesting with more than just a guitar. It sure has come a long way since I’ve first heard it.
Ragnar asked Sólveig on stage to sing ‘Dozen’ with him. On the album she sings on ‘Petals’ and four others, but not this one. They told us the story of how they met and how he kept asking her to sing on more and more songs. I sure hope they stay true to the promise that she will appear on the upcoming album too. Her performance that night was stunning and I love hearing her voice. ‘War’ was amazing with Sólveig singing harmonies. As usual, I sang along to every song and when it came to the “hardest part” line Ragnar and I shared a look and sang together. These shared moments make the concert even better.
Then the guys asked us if we wanted a break and several people did so she was called back to the stage for ‘Bravery’. David insisted on getting to hear the story that goes with the song, but somehow there was no mention of Jägermeister Vanilla this time or I must have momentarily been elsewhere. Either way, the song was delivered perfectly. I’ve heard it in so many different forms now and it just keeps getting better with every performance. 🙂
I could not believe the first set was over already, but of course it had only been six songs and Ragnar promised a slightly longer second one. So break time it was and a chance for me to change SD cards in my camera. I looked around the room and saw a few familiar faces. When I had entered the room earlier that night I was surprised to see tables. Last time I’d been to Dillon during Iceland Airwaves it was jam packed with people and there was no space for tables or chairs. This night’s music called for a different set up though and people were enjoying it. The sound was great too. Not what I had expected at such a small bar. 🙂
Soon they were back on stage for set two and Ragnar had moved the piano more to the center. He set down and were treated to ‘Relations’ with a first reluctant and then rather nice sing along. He told us that the song moves him, even though he still has no idea what the lyrics mean. The song is somewhat mysterious for sure which makes it even more interesting. It seems strange to me now, that I could not relate to this song at first and now I’ve grown to love it, especially with the added violin. Since the piano was there, we got to hear ‘Red Wine’ too. Just to make sure we would not get too depressed, he told us that the next song would be happier. I always look forward to hearing it. I’s is a good song, there is no need to apologize for it. In fact, some of the best songs I know have come from dark places and this is one of them. Afterwards he joked that he had his eyes closed while playing and was happy to see we were still there when he opened them again.
‘Southern Nights’ was next and for the first time I heard the story of how the different verses came about and how they sang the song every day on the boat. It made me smile to get more of the back story. Apparently they really came upon a pirate ship and actually walked the plank too – to jump off of it into the water for swimming. Granted, the song took away all sad feelings. Everyone sang along too. “That’s the way that we wanna go!” 😀 We were declared the best singing audience so far. Who am I to disagree? 😉
Before ‘Urges’ they had to tune their instruments so they told us how the ‘Tuning Song’ is often found on classical albums, but not considered OK in Pop Music. I had no idea. The mood was light overall that night, despite some sad music. When these two guys get on stage together it is almost a guarantee for fun times. 😀 At the beginning of the song Ragnar had to laugh for some reason, looked at David, who laughed as well and then turned away so they could both stop laughing and start over. They delivered a heartfelt version of the song.
With Sólveig’s return to the stage Ragnar announced we were getting to the most interesting part of the show: A new song that had never been played live before. David added that it had never been played other than at rehearsals earlier. This was the moment I had been looking forward to. I’d only heard bits and pieces of the song during soundcheck and loved it already. The beginning is some beautiful guitar picking before Ragnar starts singing softly. It grows more powerful quickly and gets really good as soon as Sólveig and the violin set in. Just the right melody and great lyrics to boot. This could quickly become my new favorite. Not for the first time I wondered how he manages to write songs that go straight to my heart time and time again. The performance was spot on and could not have been better. They were proud of it too and told us they didn’t care what we though, because they felt it was pretty good for a first try. Pretty good is an understatement if you ask me. <3
‘Petals’ was sung just the way it is supposed to be or that was what it felt like because Sólveig sings it on the album too and she did a brilliant job live. I don’t think I will ever grow tired of this song. 🙂 With that we had already reached the end of the second set and there was only one song left to play before the encores. ‘Scar’, the perfect closing song, made me laugh this time, because Ragnar managed to screw up his favorite line, the one about the “grinning mouth of a healing scar”. He had to grin too and it’s a good thing he didn’t look at me, because I just might have lost it completely. 😀 it was still great and they got really into it in the end.
Since there was no backstage they didn’t even bother to leave and just continued right into the encores. ‘Needle and Thread’ came with the story about not liking to buy clothes. Turns out the nice shirt I had been admiring all evening was actually David’s who had decided Ragnar should wear it. Agreed! It suited him perfectly. We only got that one encore, but wow was it good. I loved the entire show. It had been totally worth the trip to Iceland and to get an unexpected new song was a special treat. <3
Afterwards I stayed a little bit for hugs and chats. Would have loved to hand out with the guys longer, but felt so tired there was really no point. I didn’t even manage to follow the most simple conversations. Thus, I decided to call it a night and said goodbye, knowing the next concerts are already on the horizon. This one could not have been any better.
A minor Scratch
Needle and Thread