The show was quite good, if lacking a great deal in production values. You'd think someone of Knopfler's calibre could hire better sound and light people, but the sound mix went into the toilet about halfway through the show and never came back out of it. The snare drum was way louder than the rest of the drum kit, the piano was twice as loud as the other keyboard player, the vocals were too low....
*sigh* This is the problem with having been a live pro performing musician for so many years -- I can't help but nitpick the sound. (And the Beacon is such an acoustically perfect place, too. *another sigh*)
In any case, despite this, the show was great fun. I expected more Knopfler solo stuff and less Dire Straits stuff, but I didn't object to hearing "Walk of Life," "Calling Elvis," "Money for Nothing," "So Far Away," et al. Best of all, they did "Telegraph Road," which is one of my all-time favorite songs ever.
The backup band was quite talented, if a little non-cohesive in spots. The only Dire Straits alum was keyboardist Guy Fletcher, who was his usual fine self, and Knopfler also had a guitarist, another keyboardist (mostly piano, as opposed to Fletcher's organ work), a drummer, a bass player (who also, bless his heart, played stand-up bass on a few songs), and another musician named Matt Anderson. Anderson was an interesting one -- a fine fiddle player and a great harmonica player, and decent on the acoustic guitar, but he was painfully bad with an electric guitar. It was like he wandered into the wrong concert. Knopfler gave him a solo on "Calling Elvis" -- the first song of the evening -- and it was horrendous, so it took me a while to appreciate that he had talent. It just wasn't with the first instrument we saw him play. *grin*
The two most intriguing songs of the evening were "Sultans of Swing" and "Money for Nothing," Dire Straits' two biggest hits. Over the years, DS had added more and more layers to "Sultans": piano, then organ, then saxophone, then pedal steel and percussion. Last night, for the first time in twenty years, Knopfler stripped it back down. The only people on stage for "Sultans" were Knopfler, plus rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, and that's it -- just like it was when it was first recorded in 1977.
"Money" started out with Knopfler on the steel guitar he used for the beginning of "Romeo & Juliet" and one or two others, along with the standup bass, and a small acoustic guitar, and started doing it as a slow, honky-tonk country song before everyone switched guitars and modulated into the familiar riff (which has to be one of the ten most instantly recognizable riffs in rock'n'roll history). Frankly, I would've really liked to have heard the full honky-tonk version, but I'm weird.....
Knopfler's guitar work was as stellar as ever -- it's an absolute joy to watch him go at it. All in all, a fun night.
The opening act was a fellow from Tupelo named Paul Thorn, who was a very entertaining songwriter -- in fact, entertaining enough that I bought one of his CDs (he had three). He did too much explaining of what his songs were about when he should've been letting the songs speak for themselves (it's like he thought he was on VH1 Storytellers or somethin'), and the songs did that quite well. "Viagra" ("I feel like such a failure / With my broke-down genitalia") was my personal favorite, and others include "I'd Rather Be a Hammer Than a Nail," "Two Dogs in Heat," and "Joanie the Jehovah's Witness Stripper."
You can find out more about him at www.paulthorn.com.
[First posted on sff.people.krad at SFF.net on 30 April 2001.]
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