Árstíðir – Paradiso Noord, Amsterdam; December 16th, 2018
Amsterdam was the final stop on my personal Christmas tour with Árstíðir and a truly beautiful last show. When it was over I was a little bit sad that I could not see any of the four concerts that followed before the guys went home. As much as I hadn’t wanted to see Christmas shows in the beginning, they completely won me over as soon as they started and I could not get enough. Somehow thsi felt like going back to the very beginning of my time with the band, not only because they played songs from pretty much all of their albums, but because the mood was the same. The band has changed so much since I first saw them and yet, the music still draws me in just the same. This tour though, seemed to have a some extra magic. The show was sold out and wonderful from start to finish. I could not have imagined a better way to end this tour.
Since it was impossible for me to catch both concerts of the day, I got a good night’ sleep before traveling to Amsterdam. There was snow in Arnhem when I woke up, but it was mostly gone by the time I reached the train station. Was in Amsterdam an hour later, went straight to my hotel and got some more rest before dinner. The venue was to be reached via ferry from the main station – 5 minutes to the other side. Once there I searched for a while before I had finured out the right entrance. They opened about an hour later, everything went smoothly and I was surprised to have seats because the veneu pictures on the website had showed a hall with standing room – turns out there were two.
Grabbed at seat front and center, waited and watcehd as the place slowly filled up. The stage had a lot of plants in the back so it looked a bit like they were going to play in a garden. It was a cozy venue in general and even had seats by the side of the stage. Long before the concert started every seat was filled and there were even a few people standing in the back. I had a good feeling about this!
When they started the show I noticed right away how nice and warm the sound was. There was not all that much reverb, but everything sounded really good. From the very start I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy because it was such a good show and sad because the was the last one for me. I enjoyed watching the guys play and hearing them sing. They seemed very relaxed if a little bit tired and they sang beautifully. More than once a deep sigh escaped me. When introducing ‘Með hallandi höfði’ Gunnar stood a little away from the microphone and asked if we could still hear him. Certainly! His voice carried well and that worked even better when the guys were singing.
As Ragnar announced the string players I had to smile, because somewhere along the way he had noted that he always pronounced Jean-Samuel’s last name wrong. This made me think that that was only fair to balance out their difficult to pronounce band name. 😉 He also talked about the black beached in Iceland and how they are somehow more dramatic than white ones, giving poems written in those sands a special twist. The music of ‘Ljoð í sand’ surely matched that image. 🙂 This tour has really brought the song closer to my heart again.
After every song they quietly thanked us for clapping. They almost always do and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Little things can be so important. 🙂 Before ‘Passion’ Ragnar joked that Iceland had the “worst summer since the age of the trilobites, who preceded the dinosaurs”. It really made me laugh, not only because it was such a bold exaggeration, but also because it made me think of “Dino Yacht Club”. 😀 He continued saying he was supposed to paint the house, but waited all of May, June and Juli for a dry day to do so. That, I believe was pretty close to the truth since the summer was really shitty in Iceland. Thus, he concluded you need passion to drive you. I enjoyed the song a lot that night, especially the strings. It is interesting how the songs continuously seem to change or at least it feels like that, because they speak to me differently at different times. Everything about the song could be the same and still it speaks to me one day and doesn’t the next, because my mood differs. Thus, even the same setlist is never quite the same from one concert to the next.
We learned that they only knew about ‘Jólabæn einstæðingsins’ because they guy who’d written the music called them and asked them to play it at their Christmas show. I’m sure glad he did. 🙂 At that point I found it hard to believe half the show was almost over already. Where had time gone? Luckily two of my favorite songs conclude the first half of the show and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Before the break they told us that at the afternoon show, after saying they really only have one season in Iceland, named “shitty weather” someone came up to them and asked why they are named “seasons” then. A good question indeed. 🙂
For the second half of the show I decided to get a different perspective and switched places to a seat side stage for a few songs. It was fun to be able to see the audience and snap a few pictures from that angle. Then I walked around to the side and took a few pictures from the back as well before returning to my original seat. Since Ragnar told us a little about traditional Icelandic music often based on parallel fifth they gave us a short example and sang part of such a song for us. It was brilliant.
They were very talkative that night between songs, about touring in the Netherlands, Toppstöðin and how it had influenced the sound of Hvel, vulcanic eruptions and other things. Of course there was wonderful music too, from soft to powerful and back again. In the end we made Daníel happy by replying “ooooooohhh” as soon as he said they were down to the last song. Sometimes we can do that on cue. 😉 It seemed like they mobilized their last energy reserves for ‘Shades’ and really dug into the song. It worked perfectly.
Then, at the start of the encores they suddenly cracked up laughing while getting ready for ‘Heyr hymna smiður’. Gunnar apologized with “Four shows in two days, sorry” and for a moment I thought they might just start laughing again, but they managed not to. 😀 They sang the song just as well as they had back in Wuppertal all those years ago. For ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’ Jean-Samuel joined the other four and the show ended on a high note.
When it was over I said my goodbyes, listened to them talk t other fans and hugged everyone who wanted to be hugged. They let on that they had been tired and Gunnar asked me if they had faked well. Tired or not, it was a great show, so yes, they had. With someone else he was talking about the Iceland yule lads and nicely summed it up as “They are arseholes.” 😀 They were all looking forwards to getting a rest soon and I was happy we’d see each other again for one final show this year.
Schedryk schedryk (Carol of the bells)
Með hallandi höfði
Ljoð í sand
Someone who cares
Scarborough Fair / Canticle
Þar sem enginn fer
While this Way
Hátið fer að höndum ein
Things you said
Nú gleymist ég
Heyr hymna smiður
Góða veislu gjöra skal
Árstíðir European Christmas tour: Seven gigs down, none to go. Last stop: home