By Nick Ellis
How many times do you see middle-aged couples in a holiday location, wandering along a string of restaurants, gazing with suspicion at the menus on the door in a pathetic attempt to fill up their evenings? How much better then to organise a little adventure? How about doing a couple of gigs?
My friend Paul (Connelly) and I both have musical histories as long as our collective arms, years of playing music with various bands. But so tired were we of the constant travelling, sound checks and waiting around involved in ordinary gigs that ‘on hols’ we wanted to play ‘commando’, without amplification, fuss and the like … It was so much more fun to perform and joke with people in truly live sessions, when we were no more than a peanut throw from our audience.
And so, before we left, we contacted a number of bars and restaurants around Lagos, mentioned we were coming out and asked if they would like a little impromptu entertainment. A number replied and so we started, from the very first night, to gig.
We took no amplification, just relying on our (admittedly rusty) rapier wit and sturdy old harmonies. I even left my piano at home and played acoustic guitar. The music was from every decade of the second-half of the 20th century, from Elvis and the Everlies, through the Beatles and the Kinks, all the way through to 10cc and Oasis!
It was great to sit in front of our first audience in the gorgeous rooftop restaurant Amabis in Lagos and just start chatting: of course the audience was bemused, but very receptive. Within minutes we became lifelong chums with a number of people, including families from all over Europe: Amsterdam, Dublin, Düsseldorf, even Pontefract!
An extraordinary thing: how do pre-teen children know all the words of songs from 50 years ago? It was a great evening, so much so that we returned on our ‘night off’ to do a second session. After a pretty hectic evening, we drove to our ‘home base’, the legendary Casa Grande in Burgau.
It is always lovely to return to the Casa Grande and become reunited with its amazingly thespianic wonder woman Sally Vincent. This old Portuguese manor house with its cacophony of different colour bedrooms and rambling gardens has become known internationally through the TV programme One Foot in the Algarve.
It was our home base for the stay and was just like putting on a comfortable pair of carpet slippers. The house was the same as ever; in fact I can truthfully say that the same ornaments were on the lounge table as of the last visit three years ago.
I already knew Sally from previous trips and she was as welcoming as ever, delivering her crazy breakfasts and madcap conversation with the other extraordinary guests.
The work of Mariza has become a significant influence on the UK music scene. And so, on another of our nights we were excited to witness the performance of a rather wonderful Fado singer called Raquel Peters (where did that name come from?).
The diametric opposite of Beyoncé, she was dressed in a chaste black number with her hands just held gracefully in front of her breast. She hardly moved; she just delivered this sensual mournful voice directly at me as I felt my knees giving way.
This was one of the truly erotic experiences of my life, especially when she very, very slowly walked towards me with her eyes burrowing into mine.
Unfortunately the restaurant’s food did not quite come up to Rachel’s charms – the Portuguese steak was impossible to cut with a serrated knife, let alone chew.
Of course there were some other disappointments. But for the most part, our visit was wonderful and we are very grateful to the many people who came to witness us, drink with us and chat. And we have been asked back for September!