From Iceland — The Calm After The Storm

The Calm After The Storm

Published November 3, 2012

The Calm After The Storm

Patrick, I had forgotten that I loved you.

“I’m going to try to not play the guitar with my thumb,” says singer-songwriter Lay Low after suffering injury while playing. Minutes later she can clearly be seen using her thumb to play guitar and at the end of the song wipes the blood on her face with a cheeky grin. This reckless behaviour might give a clue to the style of her sweetly raw songs. This white church by the lake is probably busier than it has ever been on a Sunday, with people sitting on the floors, leaning over the balconies, using this place to shelter and gather themselves. The wind that has raged around Reykjavík all day has died down. Lay Low explains that she wrote an album where she took old Icelandic poems and wrote melodies for them. One, aptly chosen for today, is “about how cold and dark it can be in Iceland and how hard it is to function”. The clacking percussion is like hailstones, and echo keyboard and vocals are the wind. This seems to be a celebration of reliance  and this is music with a lot of pride: “have a nice forever, without you” she sings, with grit.

There have been many Patrick Wolfs, from the waif with a viola and a drum machine, to a high fashion sex freak, to a smooth pop-piano hunk. Which on will we see tonight? He starts with the first, playing a song he wrote when he was 17. He’s wearing a fairly ridiculous get-up including neck ruff, long tailed waistcoat and puff sleeves – going back to his Victorian urchin roots.  It’s an acoustic set with accompanying clarinet and violin and Patrick’s sister Jo Apps providing operatic backing vocals. Patrick himself plays grand piano, harp, ukulele and zither for songs including a manse Gaelic lyric about a blackbird.

Patrick Wolf by Ingibjörg Torfadóttir

In a  touching introduction to a song he wrote as if speaking to himself at 14, Patrick says that Icelandic artists like Björk helped him get through being bullied at school. Like Lay Low, he chooses a song to match the day: “This Weather” with the words: “the storm blows around this harbour town”. With no album to promote or major label to please he is able to take requests. He has Icelandic fans and is someone who inspires passionate followers. He rattles through stripped down versions of some old numbers including “Tristan” and “Wind in the Wires” and finishes with a ‘medley’ including the “Magic Position”. It’s a fairly indulgent mess-around with no agenda but to please the fans. Patrick, I had forgotten that I loved you.

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