Like most people who followed rock music with passion since the 1970s, I was a Dire Straits fan. Later, when Mark Knopfler began doing soundtracks and solo albums, my passions turned to curiosity that was sometimes satisfied. Often, though, I was more bewildered by the lush and wandering tones that had replaced the telegraphic punch of earlier work. Even minor Straits songs like “Les Boys” had more wallop and ironies than something like “The Last Laugh’ from his Sailing to Philadelphia solo album. Naturally, I hoped a Knopfler show would feature lots of big fan-pleasing hits like “Money for Nothing” or even “Exprssso Love” with solo tunes interlarded along with maybe a soundtrack ditty from Local Heroes.
Was I ever wrong. In fact, Knopfler, who started a half an hour late, announced early in the show, that he would play “some music” and then unearth “archeological” stuff too —presumably the hits. Still, as the very melodious evening unwound from the stage, I felt happy that I could catch up with Knopfler’s own favorites. An hour later, the band played a trio of more familiar songs: “Your Latest Trick” (boring smooth jazz), “Romeo and Juliet” (brilliant, nuanced), and “Sultans of Swing” (a trifle automatic considering how anthem-like it always was.)
Which is not to say the concert was bad. The eight-piece band of multi-instrumentalists spent the whole evening showing off what they could do playing somewhere between the hottest cèilidh you ever saw and a minor symphony. Organ, pennywhistle, popping bass, screaming guitar, was the lineup of “Marbletown” and there was even an uilleann pipe onstage for “Father and Sons” and “Hill Farmer’s Blues.” And the crowd, obviously not suffering from the same dumb preconception I harbored, stayed glued to their Bowl seats for the whole show, except for the Dire Straits’ song “Telegraph Road,” when everybody danced and Knopfler played not just pretty music, but with the kind of passion that once enflamed mine. It was a too-short show with glorious moments.