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.