It was my 5th attendance to a DS/MK concert for his return in Milan after the OES shows here in September 1992. The first note is a negative one: I bought the most expensive numbered seats very early (it was mid November 2004) and found myself hurled on the opposite side of the venue. My father-in-law brought professional military binoculars and even with them I could barely distinguish Mark’s face. I think there is nothing to add but that Italian organization lost the umpteenth occasion to make things in a decent way.
Let’s get to the show, which started with extreme punctuality (class is evident also in the details). Here is the set list and my personal comments on the songs:
1. Why aye man: in my opinion Calling Elvis was an uproarious opener, so I was very sad when discovered it was removed for this tour. Nevertheless I must say WAM made up for it, the song live had that sort of imposing structure that each opener shall have to cast the audience into the show, included a gradual growing intro which explodes at the first refrain. Great start.
2. Walk of life: I read many reviews from fans saying that the song was too slow, it lost the groove, the guys were tired of playing it, and things. I’m not particularly fond of WOL but I found it really rocking, full of energy and fast enough. I don’t know whether Mark is tired of playing it or not, I just suggest him to go on with it as long as it will be played in such a great way.
3. What it is: Live is a bit slower than on the record, this allowed the strato riff to be much more appreciated. Slower, but really rocking and very well articulated.
4. Sailing to Philadelphia: I was very happy to hear it since I missed it twice during the STP tour in 2001. It also was slower than on the record and this made it even deeper, more passionate and more oneiric. The bass background was giving the creeps and the light effects was perfectly following the different parts of the song.
5. Romeo and Juliet: a fresh but appropriate piano intro prepared Mark’s first tunes with the National Steel. The song is still moving the audience but in my opinion it is slightly below the standards set during the OES tour (and even at the Sheperd Bush concerts in 2002), when Chris White’s sax solo raised it up to its top level. Mark’s electric outro is always of great effect.
6. Sultans of Swing: this DS trademark changed a lot during the years. In my opinion switching it to the Pensa for the OES tour was a mistake, because its inimitable pace needs the Strato, it’s a perfect marriage. The new Fender MK gave it back to its original brightness, and who cares if the slow part of the outro has been removed: the final solo is now more exciting than ever, it made the crowd roar and confirmed us that Mark is still the best guitarist on earth.
7. Done with Bonaparte: Mark introduced the band before the song, highlighting Guy’s well known polyhedral talents, showing everybody the big instrument that Glenn brought to Italy, reminding Matt’s and Danny’s past experiences with DS/MK and finally living Richard starting the song (“for the others… good luck!”). I might be wrong but it was one tune up respect to the album version. Anyway, a very good execution of this particular creature of Mark’s.
8. Song for Sonny Liston: maybe this was the only song which disappointed me a bit: many fans found it really rocking and better than the album. I do not dislike the album version but found the three-piece execution of yesterday a bit bare, maybe a guitar with a dryer sound than the Les Paul (like a Telecaster) would have been more proper to give the song a thicker structure, I don’t know.
9. Donegan’s Gone: an amusing tea base toast between Mark and Richard preceded this, which made me imagine they were playing it sitting around a fire in the wild west. I liked very much the way Mark improvised and developed the song main riff with the slide, very well performed to close the reduced-set part of the show.
10. Boom, like that: Mark reworked it starting the song alone, playing its unmistakable riff and singing the first verse, than the band joined him sending the song at full rate. The version was very thick but I found the sound of Mark’s guitar a bit too high in the second part of the song at some tunes, maybe it was a resonating effect and was a bit troublesome, slightly spoiling a live version altogether up to it.
11. Speedway to Nazareth: this is already a classic of live shows. Its inexorable final crescendo is stunning, excellently assembled as only Mark and his band can make it. Richard was stately in unleashing the great final and I did not find it too loud, proving it the fact that all people attending the show with me, even my parents, who did not know the song, appreciated it a lot. Do not change a thing of it!
12. Telegraph Road: to me it was the highlight of the show. We have heard it in the eighties, when it was fast and rocking but a bit dry, then during the OES tour, when the pedal steel was not up to it since it had not a sound hard enough to interpret it. After 20 years Mark has finally brought one of his best artworks to perfection: Solid, deep, dramatic, monumental, each single tune perfectly scanned and put in the right place; Mark’s got back to his Pensa just for this song and it was definitely worthy. It is now an authentic tribute to Mark’s genius and only a great band like his guys can take it to a level of an orchestral opera; no other musician in the world will ever write anything barely similar to this.
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13. Brothers in Arms: my favorite version was the one in On the Night, this was maybe a little too slow, loosing some pace, even if the Gibson scanned the tunes with proper intensity and Matt’s accordion wonderfully replaced the Flute. Anyway, always a great hit.
14. Money For Nothing: Mark went back to the eighties performing it with a single guitar, his Gibson. This somehow gave back the song his original aggressiveness and was as usual one of the most appreciated by the whole audience (myself included).
15. So far away: this song was in my opinion undeservedly forgotten in the loft for years. Nowadays Mark has recovered it and gave it back to the role it deserves. It was played in a magnificent way, Glenn’s Bass background, Guy’s keyboards famous riff, and Mark’s eternal tunes dragged the crowd enthusiasm. Please never take it away from the set lists!
Concerning the set list, maybe it was the negative point of the evening. I do not worry a lot about the songs I would have liked to hear (like the trawlerman or Tupelo), but fifteen songs were below the standard of this tour: Rudiger was missing in the middle and the end was a great disappointment for all the people, believing to be about listening a final song (Local Hero or Shangri-La) and instead sadly watching the lights turning on after a while. I’ll be in Rome next Monday and hope to hear one or two songs more. From a technical standpoint, the sound mixing was as always very painstaking and even Mark’s voice was clear and well balanced.
All in all, it was the usual uproarious exhibition of great songs, great individual technique and superb orchestration. They are always the best.