Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
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.
Monday, November 19th, 2012
One would never want to say that this type of tour is “hard work”. That would come across as so much whining and as being completely disingenuous to the systems analyst sitting in traffic as part of his ninety minute morning commute or the business manager cramming herself into the subway on route to another useless morning meeting. Drudgery is hard work and this is far from drudgery. Yes, it takes a lot of planning and frustrating false starts and the occasional leap of faith, and the hidden expenses usually gobble up most of the less-than-expected-income, but once you have partially rid yourself of the nausea of the twenty hour journey and your body stops throbbing, and you get over the $1700 excess baggage fee, you find yourself on top of a wrought iron viewing platform designed by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel, with a 360 degree view of downtown Lisbon, with lively Rossio Square to the North, Sao Jorge castle sitting high above the city to the East, the skeletal remains of Convento do Carmo sitting within a stones’ throw to the West and the vast port of Lisbon, the one-time commercial center of the world, to the South. It is then that you take a long, deep breath and think…”I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch”.
And to top it all off, once you have finished aimlessly ambling through the streets of Lisbon and marvelling at the centuries old alleyways, nooks and crannies of the Alfama district (Lisbons oldest neighborhood), you get to go and play your music in front of 1200 excited people who have been anticipating your appearance for months. I don’t say this out of any desire for self-aggrandisement, but simply to, once again, say thank you to those of you whose interest and appreciation for what we do has allowed us to live this fairytale existence for the past twenty-five years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The gig tonight was at the relatively new and exceptionally beautiful Centro Cultural de Belem. A cultural, marble palace built in the late 1990’s, back when the economy allowed for such “frivolities”. It is just up the street from the world famous Belem Patisserie, so we journeyed down there after soundcheck to check out their renowned custard tarts (the secret recipe for which is known by only three people in the world). They were unbelievably tasty…such hardship, but someone’s got to do it. It was a fantastic gig tonight in front of an appreciative and enthusiastic audience: an excellent start to our little working holiday.