Árstíðir live in Munich, February 17 2019
Just about one year after the release of their highly acclaimed fourth studio album “Nivalis”, purveyors of icelandic magic far from any genre boundaries Árstíðir finally went on a big release tour through Europe. The Progspace was not only able to catch their Munich date, we also conducted an extensive interview with vocalist/keyboardist Ragnar Ólaffson, to be published shortly.
Starting things off spectacularly with the “Nivalis” opening triple ‘While This Way’, ‘Lover’ and ‘Please Help Me’, the three vocal magicians with backup from violin and cello stunned the audience from the get-go with that unique atmosphere only they seem to be able to conjur. Once we were past the initial shock of the quite loudly mixed drums and electronic beats coming from the backing track. Longtime fans were delighted to hear that they have not abandoned their more acoustic roots with the following ‘Vetur að vori’ and ‘Ljóð í sand’, before the drums and beats returned with the next “Nivalis”-triple ‘In the Wake of You’, ‘Mute’ and ‘Þar sem enginn fer’. Closing off the first part of the show with the breathtaking thriller that is ‘Shades’ left us craving for more.
After a short break, Ragnar, Daniel Auðunsson and Gunnar Már Jakobsson took us back to their first album with ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Kill Us’. Only three acoustic guitars of various sizes, three voices, one microphone, more is not needed to fill the room with magic. More choice cuts from the last two albums like ‘Entangled’, ‘Friðþægingin’ (who is able to pronounce that one correctly?), complete with two rocking violin solos from Jean-Samuel Bez, the mystic quasi-title track of their third album ‘Himinhvel’ or the build-up monster ‘Things You Said’ kept enchanting the audience, once again with the added string section. The closing song ‘Passion’ proved true to its title, sending a thousand goosebumps down my spine and a tear into my eyes.
But they were not done yet, we just wouldn’t let them go without an encore. Honoring their tradition, the five musicians showed us that it is possible to make music with even less than the set up they used for the first two songs after the break. Just five voices, no microphone, standing in the middle of the audience, singing an ancient icelandic drinking chant ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’ a cappella. More goosebumps guaranteed. Finally, cellist Guillaume Lagravière also had the chance to shine in the beautiful ‘Nú gleymist ég’. And Árstíðir had proven once more that they are able to create an unforgettable, magical evening full of immersive sounds, no matter how sparse their (light)show might be. The focus lies solely on the music, and all those songs shine bright, no matter how big or small the arrangement. However, it would still be awesome to see them tour bigger stages next time and bring a drummer along.