broken Dire Straits up over 20 years ago Mark Knopfler has never looked back. His
exceptional live show continues to prove that their music maintains its
inability to age, even though perhaps Knopfler himself is showing signs that
his 70th year is approaching.
With queues to get into the o2 Arena stretching out into their
strangely pristine, yet hauntingly empty new shopping centre, Knopfler’s entry
to the stage was pushed back by a full 30 minutes. With no support band, you’d
expect the audience to be riled up and slightly less enthusiastic… but alas,
no. The 20,000 strong audience erupts into a flurry of sound you wouldn’t
expect from a room full of such advanced ages.
‘Why Aye Man’ kicks the set off, with Knopfler’s distinctive guitar
tone echoing around the venue within seconds. As one of his finest solo tunes, the
extended solos that bring it to a close are welcome, while Knopfler’s voice
holds up surprisingly well while singing the immensely catchy chorus. The
bizarrely titled ‘Corned Beef City’ follows, before ‘Sailing To Philadelphia’ (originally
recorded with James Taylor) brings a haunting beauty to the o2 after a light-hearted
It isn’t uncommon for a band member to go off and do their
own thing eventually. Certain extremes exist, with Roger Waters mostly avoiding
his solo work and filling his sets with crowd pleasing big hitters; while Peter
Gabriel has famously avoided all of his stunning Genesis material in his solo shows.
Knopfler takes a slightly safer middle route, handing about a third of his set
over to Dire Straits.
‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ and ‘Romeo And Juliet’ get the
biggest roar since Knopfler took to the stage. While having possibly the most distinctive
guitar tone in all of music, until the acoustic guitar comes out it doesn’t
really make much sense why he changes instrument between virtually every tune.
This starts to have its detriments during the final moments of ‘Romeo And
Juliet’, where the peaceful music is interrupted by a few crushingly loud guitar
cable buzzes that continue into his first interaction with the audience. ‘I love
you’, someone shouts from the audience; ‘I might well love you too’, he responds.
The story of his early music career attempting to hitch-hike
from Penzance to Newcastle on Christmas Day enlivens the acoustic beauty of ‘Matchstick
Man’, but unfortunately, he follows this up with the distinct dullness of three
tracks that sound basically identical. The lack of Dire Straits tunes such as ‘Telegraph
Road’ and ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (or even some big hitting solo tracks like ‘What
It Is’) make you wonder why these
clearly inferior songs that quite literally no-one in the audience would rather
hear are actually present in the set.
Things pick up as ‘Your Latest Trick’ and ‘On Every Street’ come
out towards the end of the set, but it is the encore that really sends chills
around the entire arena through its synth heavy intro, explosive drum fills and
exceptional, non-aging riff. Knopfler rarely plays ‘Money For Nothing’ live,
but bringing it out on this tour really does feel like something special. His
band pull off every nuance of the track as convincingly as Dire Straits would
have themselves, and the applause that sees the band off the stage hammers home
what an honour it is to see such an accomplished and humble musician continue
to perform the music he loves.
Until the next encore. And the next. While the first does
bring ‘Brothers In Arms’ out complete with mesmerising solo, but the third and
final does seem like overkill in the gradual build up of ‘Going Home’, the
award winning soundtrack to ‘Local Hero’. Despite having more endings than Lord
Of The Rings, the appreciation felt for the band is inspiring, while the
genuine appreciation that Knopfler himself holds for his fans is shown in the
continued passion of his performance.
Knopfler continues his European tour this year.