Reeling In The Years

Our reports from all the across arts on Lanzarote often include reviews of concerts of classical, folk lore and popular music usually staged in grand venues such as Jameos del Agua, for example, or Convento Santo Domingo in Teguise.

There is, of course a rich seam of musical attractions that are, perhaps, aimed at the tourist visitors more than at the indigenous or new resident sector on the island. Jazz music is well represented in this genre as, too, is rock music of the Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart variety. Because we can see and hear this ubiquitous sound-track everywhere we go, we new residents perhaps take it for granted. We know that usually the musicians delivering these sounds are more than competent but we perhaps don´t expect anyone in particular to stand out in the pack.

Last night, though, we found just such a performer.

The setting was a venue we had never previously visited that was, in fact, a concession restaurant, Bailey Bar, on a tourist complex called Jardines del Sol. As so often happens when we set off down sidetracks and detours in search of treasure, it took us only a few steps to realise we had diamonds on the soles of our shoes.

This restaurant was only a quarter of a mile from our home in Playa Blanca and is basically there to serve holiday-makers on the complex. Beautifully lit and decorated with maybe fifty covers, Bailey Bar, has a sister restaurant in Puerto Del Carmen we learned last night.

We were visiting with our friends and neighbours, Linda and Mike, who had known of the place and recommended it to us because there is a resident singer, (twice weekly appearances) that apparently they have been following around the island for nearly twenty years now.

When we arrived, Mike having taken advantage of the restaurant´s reservation scheme had booked a table for four, and we entered to find several of the tables already occupied, a very welcoming and professional staff, effusive management greeting Mike and Linda like the old friends they are, and at the same time making us feel very relaxed.

Within a few minutes the waiters had taken our drinks order and we had decided what we each were going to eat. Dee and I shared a fried cheese plate of the tapas starters, and Dee ordered Avocado and Prawn salad, which she later described as absolutely delicious and very filling. I had ordered what was definitely one of the top ten sirloin steaks I have ever enjoyed. Well done, with potatoes, vegetable and pepper sauce, and spectacularly huge. Linda and Mike had shared chicken croquettes off the tapas starters, with Linda having the same avocado dish as Dee, and Mike ordering ´fish of the day´.

Just as we began eating there was a loud cry of greeting from a very attractive lady who came rushing to our table to greet Linda and Mike. They hadn´t seen each other since the previous gig, last Saturday. This, it turned out, was Rut, the singer, and even in conversation it was immediately clear that she had the kind of personality that helps an artist stand out from the rest.

I liked the fact that she and the restaurant management scheduled her performance times in a way that allowed diners to enjoy their meal and conversations and have the table cleared, so they can settle back to hear a concert, (it was certainly deserving of that word) that seemed to include all the hits since the sixties.

Rut perched herself behind a mixing desk of backing tracks etc that she and her husband, Andrew, had put together whilst we were all busy telling each other how good our food was.

So what was it that identified Rut as a concert performer rather than a busker? Perhaps it was a track list that I would have happily claimed as one of my own playlists on my computer.

Mrs Robinson was still that jaunty, flirty woman who so distracted The Graduate, and Rut´s Tina Turner powerhouse delivery of Proud Mary was excellent. There was a powerful delivery of Come On Eileen, by Dexys Midnight Runners, and some beautiful jazz numbers, too, associated with the likes of Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.

We hear a lot of these songs in the pubs and bars of Lanzarote, but Rut´s accent gives her a distinctive edge, and the movement from track to track was seamless; no loud whoops or whistles from the technology no false starts, no head down fiddling with sound controls.

And that allowed her to engage between songs with her audience and deliver her great trick of enticing dancers on to the floor without becoming demanding or aggressive. And because this was the right artist at the right venue the dancers left their tables to dance on the fairly small floor.

That put me in mind of just about the only track I might have added to her playlist, because these dancers were, in the words of Steely Dan, rockin´in the aisles and rellin´in the years. Mike and Linda cut a fine rug (who knew?) on several occasions throughout the set and even persuaded my wife Dee to deliver her barely moving soft shoe shuffle.

Gradually the floor filled, with the couple from our next door table being a surprise Fred and Ginger.

As if I needed any further reason to ensure we celebrate this performance and remember her name, Rut delivered a gorgeous version of Daydream Believer, written by my hero John Stewart and recorded by The Monkees, Anne Murray and the rest of the world.

Near the close of her set she gave us a great version of a hit by Dire Straits that saw one family of four or six join the dancers and give a quite inspired almost choreographed Walk Of Life !

I spoke to Rut and Andrew after the performance and we will definitely bring you an interview with her over the next couple of weeks.

Watch this space.

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