Late summer took us a little further than usual from our “home turf”. In September we met up with old friends for a musical night out in a very special venue; the Alhambra Palace in Granada. Tucked away in the historic gardens of the Generalife Palace is a small walled open air stage. This stage hosts performances by a variety of artists ranging from classical through flamenco to rock. Perhaps betraying our age, we had tickets for one of the giants of ‘90s indie rock – Suede.

The Alhambra music stage is built on one side of a small valley in the Palace grounds affording stunning close up views of the main part of the famous palace complex. The floodlit red towers of the palace serving as perhaps the most spectacular backdrop imaginable for pre concert drinks in the delightful bar terrace – certainly a change from the sticky floored “Good Mixer” pub of the original Camden Britpop days!

The band played to a packed venue, rolling out their hits with a disarming freshness and charm that was matched by the evident affection in which they were held by the international audience. Nothing touches the human spirit and heart as much as music and the power of anthems from one’s youth is never really lost. Singer Brett Anderson is so shockingly well preserved that it was indeed possible to imagine oneself transported back in time to the innocence of youth. The strong hints of gender fluidity that were such a famous hallmark of Suede’s music seem less shocking now but only because they appear prescient and ahead of their time (even if Bowie had done it 20 years before Suede – but that’s another story altogether…). 

In truth, Suede never really fitted with the other gods of Britpop, always standing slightly apart from the frenzied crowd pleasing of the holy trinity of Blur, Oasis and Pulp. Hearing Anderson and the band play it is now possible to properly appreciate the quality of their songwriting and artistry. The place conjured up by their classic songs is a provincial world inhabited by young figures determined to find glamour amid the dreary realities of everyday life. Great pop music can be  poetic and serve as the folk music of modern people; describing our lives and dreams. Suede’s best work married great tunes with a sensibility that touched a generation – it still does. 

Hearing this powerful and gritty music in the dreamscape of the Alhambra gardens was somewhat      disconcerting but none the worse for that, Suede’s music has always  truly been about dreams in any event. The ethereal setting of the Alhambra is perhaps a fitting place in which to enjoy this music of dreams and longing.

We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the many delights of the beautiful city of Granada. Although the city was full with visitors it was possible to find quiet streets and squares away from the throng. One way to escape the crowds is to take a drink  in the historic Alhambra Palace Hotel which sits just down from the actual Alhambra complex. This famous hotel was built in 1910 to cater for the rich tourists who were starting to be attracted to the historic charms of Granada, even including a casino amongst its attractions. The hotel’s most impressive feature is a stunning terrace bar that looks out over the city below. The entire building is decorated in a style inspired by the moorish architecture of the Alhambra and is a wonderful survival from the golden era of leisure travel. 

Our last night was spent exploring the historic warren of whitewashed lanes that make up the famous Albaicin quarter. Probably nowhere in Spain comes closer to evoking the lost world of Muslim Spain, glimpses of hidden gardens with fruit trees and fountains, narrow cobbled passages opening out to sudden plazas, ancient churches built over even older mosques and synagogues – nothing comes close to this wonderful survival from an ancient Iberia. 

Granada worked its magic spell, as it always does. This most beautiful and civilised of cities offers so much to inspire the imagination whether it is mysterious lost Al Andalus or glorious slightly kitsch Edwardian grand hotels the city has something for every dreamer. And for us, one magical night reliving our lost youth in the moonlit gardens of the most famous palace in the world.  

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