This is pretty long so don’t feel obliged. Please scroll through to the end though…it’s not all drivel!
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take Dire Straits out of the boy. Or something like that…
Well I’d built this week up to be pretty huge for me and I haven’t been let down by the performance at the Enmore Theatre. Already my favourite place to go see a show in Sydney, it is further still for another reason now.
I’d asked the Enmore about cameras. Knowing the band managements policy for mini-disc recorders, video cameras and stills cameras was “go for it” I was pretty disappointed to hear “only simple point and shoot cameras are allowed – nothing that can record is allowed”. Everyone else had their mobile phone/video cameras rolling. I even saw a woman with a fixed 400mm slr lens, and a tripod!
But I needn’t have worried. Of the 200 shots I took on a 3.1 MP compact Pentax, 69 turned out good, of which maybe 10 are stunning. I’ll make a photographer yet!
So onto the show.
Amazing. Just amazing. 2nd row, just to the right of the great man. I couldn’t believe it was this close.
The crowd were mostly late 30 somethings to 50 somethings and I think were expecting mostly Dire Straits tunes, though the younger chaps and lasses certainly knew his newer, solo material.
The setlist was no great surprise, which suited me fine. Mark and the band came out to kick it all off with Wye Aye Man. It rocked. Great show opener. Great backing vocals from Glenn.
Walk Of Life came next and it is definitely a slower version. Made me realize how “pop” the original actually was. No surprises there, I wouldn’t have been disappointed if they didn’t play it mind you. Love that red telecaster though.
What It Is was next. Nothing different to previous tour really. Nice tone.
Forgive me if the order is incorrect, I’m sure someone will have it more accurately listed but Sailing To Philadelphia was next. It was lovely, nice vocals, improved on the last tour’s. It was written with two people singing in mind however so it’s hard to pull off with just MK.
Romeo and Juliet began so beautifully with some piano from Matt and keys from Guy. A little like on Alchemy but less layered and less 80’s sounding. The crowd knew but it was the familiar trickle of those opening guitar notes in the capoed F major that did it and there were cheers. Everyone sang the words and many called out in the quiet moments, accompanied by a few tears.
The lights were out when the big “Thank-yooooouuuuu!!!” was yelled and it could only mean one thing. Sultans Of Swing was stripped down to a four piece and it sounded fab. The solos were near perfect replica’s of the album version, which was a surprise. I knew there was no, slow quiet middle bit, but I hadn’t realized he was going to take it back to 77. Great stuff, standing ovation. Bravo.
Guy Fletcher comes out from his keyboard rig and straps on a big acoustic for Done With Bonaparte. The familiar jibes are made about the band keeping up etc and it’s away. I gotta say I was never a big fan of this track on Golden Heart. It’s nice enough but it doesn’t grab you. Well this live performance did and I was singing away, realizing I actually knew the words. He really is a folkie.
Sit down time and it was first up with Back To Tupelo. Oh man I’m so glad they played this. I was hoping it would happen and it sounded so sweet. That tone, that tone. So poised and deliberate.
Song For Sonny Liston up next. Wow. This was awesome. A bit slower and it was fantastic! MK really got into it. It was just him and Glenn and Chad. Great, great guitar tone. His Marshall stack was pointing right at me and it sounded so smooth and gruff and fat and so cool. It’s just that low-down, finger-strum-percussive grit that we’ve come to love. Totally put the song in a new light.
MK was at this point talking about his laryngitis and how great the Aussie doctors are at fixing it. He had some tea brought out, while he was talking about Lonnie Donegan. This was also great. Much better live, MK was having heaps of fun with the slide. After the song he told us how his old Dad, his late Dad, had a lathe up in the back shed and MK would get him to fashion old bits of brass into finger slides. “I’m still using them today” he says as he slides it off. That was a nice touch.
No Rudiger tonight. Next up, All That Matters. And it was just superb. I’d not given this a lot of time of the album but live they just pulled it off so well. The slide Richard plays on this is actually MK’s first National Steel Guitar, the one he hired a car and drove to Wales to buy which he told of in story. I always thought it was his famous “O” Style that he did that for. However, the song is a gorgeous lullaby that I hope to always remember for when one needs a lullaby.
Speedway To Nazareth and it was well timed. The short, quiet acoustic set was fabulous but we were suddenly back into rock. Guy’s electronics set the mood and it was off in no time. It actually got to the build-up quicker than I had anticipated. But man was that good! It rocked! It was so damn loud. They can rock your pants off man, just like the last tour. Such a great arrangement. Big applause followed this one.
“This one’s about fast food” lead into Boom, Like That. This started off with just MK on the main riff then it gradually built. By the second verse Chad kicked it up a notch with the full kit and it went off! Great change-about from the album version and I like the album version. It is a tad long I think, but still great fun.
I knew what was coming next and it didn’t take long for the crowd to know either. Telegraph Road was very well received. Not surprisingly. This was easily the best performed song of the night, hands down. They just nailed it. MK played the best on this out of anything else he played. The solos were absolutely searing. The low-string riffing before the build up was just as amazing as I’d hoped. The crowd loved every bit as did I and another standing ovation followed.
End of Set 1.
Not long at all for 1st encore, maybe 1 minute, maybe 2 and they came back to the stage. Calls of “Lady Writer”, “Water Of Love” and “Wild West End” came but I knew they wouldn’t be played. The crowd must have taken MK’s suggestion of “We’ll be taking as many requests as we can” seriously. I mean, if I didn’t know better, so would have I. But Brothers In Arms it was and I don’t think anyone was disappointed. Matt’s efforts of accordion were stunning. It’s so good stripped back like that. Guy’s keys were well suited too, not too much. Nice soloing (of course) and many punters singing along.
Shouts of “Money For Nothing” obviously worked ‘cause the greatest guitar riff of all time (I’m ducking as I type) began and the roar went up. Great version. By now those who bothered to stand moved down to be right under MK’s nose. I couldn’t resist. Great opportunity for closer photos. He was happy to be pleasing everyone so much, grinning at us boppin along up front. Standing ovation (well most were already standing) and looking back behind me in the stalls and up in the rafters, the crowd was ecstatic. It was like crowds of the 1980’s Dire Straits concerts. The band looked pleased by this and some hugs combined with waves and thank-yous. I have a great shot of Guy and Mark accepting our thanks.
Off again and on again. Second encore gave us So Far Away. Another crowd favourite, it was a very “Brothers In Arms” type punter crowd. Of course he sang the “Good back to be here in-a Sydney Town, when you’re So Far Away From Me. You get me up and you never let me down, when you’re So Far Away From Me”. To be honest I remember little from the track, I was looking around a lot, also trying to get as good a close photo of MK as I could. His guitar had a great overdriven tone though, I remember trying to watch and work out how he played that lead bit. Still can’t do it! How many other guitarist in the world played chords when playing a melody??
So the pretty lights came up for the closer. The Mist Covered Mountains from Local Hero was excellent. Matt’s accordion skills shone again. The punters a bit confused – they knew but they didn’t. Lovely double bass from Glenn. It’s a good change for them to play that. I was hoping for Going Home to follow but Wild Theme it was. Halfway there ;) Nice, really nice. The crowd went up when the hook came in. It’s a wonderful old tune. It’s not old at all, but really, it is.
So more waves, more thank-yous from them and him and us (a dozen from me). The night was done and my voice was hoarse. I had a smile for 45 minutes. I called my Dad (it’s all his fault I’m a fan) and carried on for a bit. I also called a music appreciating mate who has had similar happy, memorable experiences to the one I’d just been in. I was delirious telling him how happy I was. I called another friend who knew how I felt before leaving for the show and he could tell how elated I was after it. I would’ve called my girlfriend but she was sleeping. I did however tell her before the show I hadn’t been as nervous as I was, since our first date!
And it was true.
The week leading up to seeing my hero was extraordinary. I feel a little foolish for being so immature about going to see some guy play guitar and sing a few songs, but I’ve surprised myself at how happy it’s made me. The fact that Mark Knopfler came back to Australia. I think I was actually more excited tonight than was that little boy (while wearing his Dad’s squash head and wrist bands) watched MK on a live Australian TV broadcast, 18 years ago. Or when I saw the triangular shaped curtains rise from a few hundred metres away in ‘91. I kinda feel like I’ve accomplished something. Like a goal has been achieved. I don’t have to worry if I never see Mark Knopfler again, cause I just did. And it was brilliant.
Tomorrow night’s (now tonight’s) show will be great, I can’t wait. Maybe a different atmosphere, bigger venue, more fans. Still, 4th row seats. Shit that’s hard to take.
Ben ‘Luzzo’ Luscombe
PS It’s at this point I’d like to take back remarks I made when Shangri La was released. MK is still great. He’s still my hero and he hasn’t let me down.