Ragnar Ólafsson – PUBlicscy, Wrocław; May 15h, 2018
For the fourth time in under two years Ragnar Ólafsson was touring Poland, the second time around with violinist David Ra-Champari by his side. I had been hoping to see the full tour, but it did not work out and I had to settle for two out of seven concerts. I was happy to get to see any at all though. 🙂 It was well worth the trip, with quite a few funny stories being told and even a brand new song on the setlist. 😀
I set out in the morning and landed in Wroclaw around noon. A bus ride and a short walk later I was at my hotel and opted for resting instead of sightseeing, knowing I would not get much sleep during the coming night. Got me some food, searched for the venue and then just relaxed until it was time to go. Was at the Pub when they opened, bought a ticket, said hello to the guys and left again for a little while so they could have dinner in peace. When I returned, they were in the midst of sound check. 🙂 The guys were both tired, but sounded OK. They just needed to warm up a bit. When they were done I found a nice seat, got myself a cider and waited. It was about one hour to go.
At first I thought it was going to be empty, but eventually the venue filled up and a small crowd gathered behind me. Shortly after 8 their support act started. Samuel, whose last name escapes me right now, but he made nice music. Being from New Zealand he talked about both of them being islander and how that unites them. He even got us to sing along and played us a new song, work in progress about all the stuff we carry with us through our lives and how maybe that makes us who we are. I quite liked it. Should have asked him about a CD.
After a little while Ragnar and David stepped on stage and tuned their Instruments. Gradually people grew quiet and they started playing ‘SSDD’. It is a good way to ease the audience into the concert, becaue the song is so delicate that everyone has to listen. So far it has always worked. 🙂 Ragnar introduced himself and told us how Iceland was considered for being Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, but then New Zealand was chosen over it. He also remarked that Poland should get used to having him around. ‘Deva’ was beautiful. I noticed that he sang lower than usual, which suited the song just fine. For me it gets better every time I hear it.
He asked Martina on stage to join him for ‘Dozen’ and explained how Bartek finds a singer to help him with the duets at every concert. Also he pointed out how important silence is in his songs. Martina sang beautifully and it was a perfect fit for today’s lower voice. 🙂 It always amazes me how many good singers there are in every city and how quickly they pick up on the songs. Wow!
The talk turned to football because Ragnar asked if Poland was competing in the World Cup and used the opportunity to make fun of the football fans in Iceland and concluded that they are the only fans who chant for their team in minor chords demonstrating the chant for us. He even said that musicians and football fans from Iceland are two different beings. That caused me to raise an eyebrow, because I remembered the Euro Cup and face paint, but chose not to mention it. ‘Bravery’ the song “inspired by a really bad drink” was brilliant as usual. 😀
David asked for more violin in his monitor while he was tuning, which lead to him joking about “demanding” violin players, which in turn lead to Ragnar explaining how certain personality types gravitate towards certain Instruments. When he said that all the Introverts are guitar players, I just had to say that I assumed those were bass players. Bass player jokes followed. All of that made me smile for the jokes as well as for a few memories that came up at that moment. When he asked if there were any bass players in the house someone quipped “Not any more!” 😀 It was exactly the distraction I needed that day.
‘Urges’ was followed by two new songs. First was ‘Walls’, introduced as “one of the songs I wrote last year as I was floating down a house boat on the Mississippi”. It seemed to be even more beautiful than it had been when they first played it a few months ago. The song moves me every time I hear it, even though I still don’t have much of a clue what it is about. We all agreed that it should be kept in the setlist. The other one was brand new and called ‘The Message’. When it started, I was not sure about it at all. The first verse was slow and quite high and Ragnar had trouble hitting the high notes that day, so it didn’t come out quite as good as it could have been. Suddenly though it turned to something more powerful and I absolutely loved the chorus, liked the changes between faster and slower, higher and lower. I really liked the lyrics too. This one has the potential to become one of my favorites. <3
From the songs for the post-breakup album we turned back to the songs from the breakup album and got to hear Martina again on ‘Petals’. She mastered this one beautifully as well. 🙂 ‘Scar’ was next, introduced with the question if there were any banjo players in the house and the joke that in hell, instead of a harp to play on you’d get a banjo. The guys really got into it. I loved watching them. To my surprise the set did not end here, but they played ‘Needle and Thread’ as well. It works perfectly fine as a set closer too and I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of this one. 🙂
Soon they were back on stage and Ragnar played the first chord to ‘Wine’ when a string broke. He noted that this was luckily the encore. I liked having the song at the end of the show rather than the beginning. It was lovely even with only five strings. 🙂 Last but not least they played ‘Southern Nights’ for us. We heard a little more about traveling down the Mississippi and the song, especially the pirates they met. “It’s probably the happiest thing I’ve ever written”. I tend to agree, at least it is the happiest song I’ve heard. It was a good end to the show with an out of tune, but very funny sing along, including birthday wishes for K. who had come to see the show.
Afterwards I stayed for a little while, hugged Ragnar, talked, asked about an upcoming tour with Árstíðir (nothing fixed yet) and enjoyed just hanging out. The guys were going to Krakow that night because Bartek was organizing the festival they were going to play at. It suited me just fine, at least I wasn’t missing an afterparty. 😉 I said goodbye to everyone, knowing it’d be back soon.
Needle and Thread