Mrs. GolfBlogger and I had a real treat last night: we saw Mark Knopfler live at the historic The Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor.
The GolfBloggers are huge fans of Knopfler, who perhaps is best known as the front man and guitarist for the group Dire Straits. Knopfler formed that group in 1977 and had a breakthrough hit in 1978 with “Sultans of Swing” from the album Dire Straits. Knopfler also formed the Notting Hillbillies(a country effort with just one album), released a terrific duet album with Chet Atkins (Neck and Neck), and has done several film scores, including Local Hero and the Princess Bride. He’s recorded a bunch of solo albums, and his latest effort is called Get Lucky.
The concert was in a relatively a small setting—the Michigan seats 1,700—and thus had a nice friendly atmosphere. Knopfler and his immensely talented band reeled off one song after another, with no chat and little wasted time. His new songs—mostly with a Celtic-Bluegrass feel—were enjoyable, but the real crowd pleasers were from his days with Dire Straits: Romeo and Juliet, Brothers In Arms, Sultans of Swing, So Far Away and others. I think the crowd would have liked more Dire Straits. I, however, wanted more of his new work since my musical tastes have always run to country-bluegrass.
I wonder if it is satisfying—or frustrating—for an artist to have his original works so eclipse the newer material. I think for Knopfler that it must be a little bit frustrating, since he has not been content to do Dire Straits reunion tours (none apparently are forthcoming, either), or album after soundalike album. His recent work is very different, and yet still recognizable
Knopfler’s guitar work is simply amazing, in spite of a recent injury that forced him to play the entire concert from a chair. He was precise, melodic, versatile. I dabble in guitar, and more than the quick picking, what I really admire about Knopfler are the haunting slides. I was also amazed by the number of guitar changes he made during the show. I’m sure he he had twenty different guitars, and switched out after nearly every song.
I rarely go to concerts—they’re too expensive and the huge venues put me off—but the Knopfler performance at the Michigan was well worth the (considerable) money.
Knopfler’s new CD, Get Lucky also is terrific. It’s a mix of sounds, but mostly with a Celtic-Scotch-Irish flavor. Its also considerably slower, and with a more haunting feel than some of his other works. Think Brothers in Arms as opposed to Sultans of Swing. It also sounds to me a bit like what I remember from the movie Local Hero. Some reviewers have been put off by a certain “lack of energy,” but I think the album grows on you. If you’re a Dire Straits fan and have not kept up with where Mark Knopfler has traveled in a musical sense, you should check it out.