Arguably, one of the highlights of Reykjavík’s recent so-called Culture Night was the reunion of Egó – one of the biggest Icelandic rock acts of the early to mid-‘80s.
Then and now, led by Bubbi Morthens – the Icelandic Springsteen, if one must draw up any kind of in-the-ballpark comparison – Ego recorded three uneven albums between 1982 and ’84. Their strongest effort, without a doubt, is their second, “Ímynd” (a wordplay, of sorts, the title could be translated both as “Image” as well as “In Focus”), which contains one of their best-loved anthems “Fjöllin Hafa Vakað” (“The Mountains Have Stayed Awake”), which still receives frequent radio airplay today.
But Egó isn’t Bubbi’s first band to be resurrected two decades after it disbanded. A few years back, Utangarðsmenn (or the Outsiders, as they were poorly introduced to the, uh, outside world), Bubbi’s first proper band, toured the country to mixed reviews and not-so-muted accusations of selling out.
Originally having led the Icelandic punk/new wave explosion of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, which, lest we forget, also bore and bred our beloved Björk, in the new millenium middle-aged Utangarðsmenn mostly seemed to frighten pensioners and small children alike with their dated (this was prior to 9/11) cold war choruses a la “Þið munuð öll, þið munuð öll, þið munuð öll…deyja!” (“You’re all going to, you’re all going to, you’re all going to…die!”). Clearly, their timing wasn’t right.
Egó, however, was always a much more sophisticated affair than Utangarðsmenn. They also had better tunes and many of the lyrics were barking mad, a fact not entirely lost on Bubbi today who blames the heavy substance abuse which also tore the band apart in the end. But Bubbi & Co. claim this reunion, which debuted during the banking holiday weekend celebrations in the Westman Islands earlier this summer, is no one night stand; they’re here to stay this time around and have even threatened a new album sometime in the not-too-distant future.
But the Culture Night concert was Egó’s first concert appearance in the nation’s capital for roughly twenty years. The all-too-short set opened with a fine cover of the Clash’s fantastic faux reggae “The Guns of Brixton”. So far so good. Thereafter the classics followed fast and furiously: “Stórir Strákar Fá Raflost”; “Móðir”; a legitimate cover of Utangarðsmenn’s anti-nuclear anthem “Hiroshima” (frightened children included) and, of course, “Fjöllin Hafa Vakað”. A good time was had by everyone, which was concluded with a countdown to the fabulous fireworks display.
As with nearly all reunions from the Eagles to the Sex Pistols, there’s always something a little sad about middle-aged ex-rebels trying to recapture lost youth – and, in the process, balance their bank accounts – although, needless to add, there wouldn’t be a platform for such things unless the public didn’t demand their fix of nostalgia as well.
There’s also the embarrassing matter of revisiting old themes in the tradition of “I hope I die before I get old”, “I can’t get no satisfaction” and “Rebel Rebel”, which can prove to be a tad difficult to get through gracefully. Few have succeeded shamelessly.
Several days after the successful affair, Bubbi himself claimed that warm August night by the harbour to be Egó’s finest moment in the live arena. It most certainly was their biggest – an estimated crowd of 80.000 attended. As for them being able to top their classic “Ímynd” LP – the verdict is still out. Nonetheless, their afterlife has just been prolonged.