November 18: There is a leisurely pace to this little tour. Today was a day off and this morning we piled into a small van and headed up the highway to the city of Porto. Three hours later we took up residence at a cafe along the banks of the Rio Douro and settled in to enjoy the perfect weather and this incredible city. The old city of Porto is carved out of the cliffs that rise from the river. Centuries stacked upon centuries. The streets and alleyways create a maze that twists and turns and switches back on itself. The only way to find ones way out is by heading downhill, toward the river. Around every corner looms a dark, haunted looking church, vampires peer down from perches high above the alleyways (not the cute Kristen Stewart/Rob Pattinson variety, but the creepy Klaus Kinski kind). It’s an amazing place. Some of us also sampled one of the local delicacies, some call it a Frenchie, some call it a Drunk Mans Sandwich and some call it something else in Portuguese. I call it disgusting…two pieces of bread, covered in melted cheese, with a fried egg on top and sausage, steak, ham and whatever other scraps the kitchen has on hand, inside. Then the whole thing sits in a putrid, spicy gravy. I guess it was kind of like going to Philadelphia and ordering a Phillie Cheesesteak, but not nearly as good for you …..one does strange things when one is in an unfamiliar time zone.
November 19: The gig tonight was not in the old town but in a more modern part of the city in the Casa De Musica, which is the cities main concert hall. In direct contrast to the cities ancient past this building looks forward, far forward into a galaxy far, far away…it boldly goes where no man has gone before. It is a futuristic mess. The building was designed by Koolhaas in the early 2000s and I suppose it is an attempt at breaking away from the traditional European concert hall, perhaps an ironic twist on a theme, but it is a perfect example of form (gone mad) over function…perhaps it looked good as a scale model. The building is a strange, indefinable, multi-sided shape that sits on a huge undulating marble platform (a skateboarders paradise). Ironically the space age materials used on the outside already looks worn and dated (in many ways the outside of the building reminds me of one of our local Toronto architectural calamities, the ROM chrystal…impractical, ugly and dated within a week of its completion). The inside of the building is concrete, stainless steel, plastic and neon. While walking around inside it’s hard not to flash on scenes from The Andromeda Strain, or expect to meet Lord Vader and a dozen storm troopers coming down the hall. Our dressing room had these fantastic, huge windows jutting out at 45 degree angles over the skateboarders below, it reminded me of the lounge (10 Forward) on the Starship Enterprise (for all you Next Generation fans). Apparently the future is a very uncomfortable place with lots of hard edges and harsh light…although there is the occasional cool window and sliding remote control door to keep one amused. The performance hall itself is enormous, not necessarily in seating capacity but in the actual volume of space….it is vast. Don’t get me wrong, we felt honoured to be asked to play in such a prestigious hall and loved the opportunity to do so. Once again, we had a very appreciative and enthusiastic audience. We had a very good show although not as consistently strong as the night before. What can I say…Portugal rocks….we had a blast….we hope to return soon.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 at 8:38 am and is filed under Tour Diary, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Although I had already posted a comment in Lisbon but couldn't afford missing the opportunity of being the first to post here.
Mike, I felt that you concert in Porto was well above "very good" and I can only dream what was it in Lisbon, when you say that it was consistently stronger.
Anyway, its great to know that you CJ's enjoyed our city and that you had a great experience in Portugal; please return again and again.
First, let me tell you the concert was fabulous for me. Margo Timmins keeps a charming low warm voice, and she does express, sometimes with deep intensity, what the words say. She is just a beauty on stage, moving gracefully and building up a show.
Of course she could do nothing without the band. You all play coherently a white-blues style music with beautiful articulation and nice instrumental parts now and then. It's obvious you play togteher for ages – the music flows so naturally and perfectly played.
The program was also excellent, though one or two of the new songs seemed a step down from the overall level. Also I'd like to have some vocal aid to Margo, some refrains asked for two or three voices in chorus.
As for your appreciation of my town, Porto, I have mixed feelings. Porto is a town of rich architecture traditions, maybe you had not the time to make a fair opinion of it. Myself, I like less the riverside area and the maze of old streets slopin down (or up) than the seaside area or the uptown squares and churches. And they are NOT that dark or terrifying ! Also, I agre with the poor inside architecture of the hall (Casa da Musica), but it does have tremendous accoustics. Concrete, plastic and neon are ugly interior decoration. But the outside is again fantastic architecure ! Sorry to diasagree… though you are right that materials are too soon warn and dated. Anyhow, it IS a pretigious hall that upgraded that part of town.
Unfortunately, we are through a deep economic crisis and you may have noticed too many beggars, too many homeless, too many closed shops and ugly grafittis all around. We do not have the life standards of Canada – we are in fact a thrid-world country in Europe, with huge unemployment , a very feeble industry, misery wages and small impovered middle class. I even wondered how the room was almost filled, with tickets at 30 € .
But please, please come back. It was a joyful and a magic night. Good music like yours is priceless and timeless. Thanks.
I've seen some concerts… this one I will not forget. Your performance was amazing. I guess we didn't react according because we were paralyzed and smiling, thinking how lucky we were! Thank you for visiting Porto and give us this pleasure. Please return.
Enrique has got to get a huge kick out of that slather of "Otono" posters…..
Eh, to come to love the "francesinha" you just have to try it a few more times. Five or six should be enough, so at a rate of let's say a gig a year – I’ll buy tickets for them all in advance but expect a special reduced rate -, you'll be a fan by no later than 2018.*
As for Casa da Música, I kind of learned to like it, but, of course, I just sit there listening. And after your Andromeda Strain reference I’ll probably let a few weeks go by before returning. I don’t like the idea of clotted blood…
Just one more thing, regarding your show there: when Margo said that The Wilderness is your mother’s favorite Nomad Series album – that includes the last track?
* May not apply to Canadians. Especially ones used to traditionally made Italian food.
Thank you for coming to Porto. Next time you need to stay out all night, dancing and drinking and only then try a "Frenchie" at sunrise, she will become your friend, earn your respect, maybe for life!