Be warned, this isn’t my usual fare. What it is is a review of a fantastic concert I had the pleasure of attending last night.
This marks (NPI) the second time this year where I was fairly certain I was the youngest person in the crowd at a concert. The first was back in July at the Rush show.
Mark Knopfler is a little bit different than pretty much everybody making music right now. He’s a little bit of rock, a little bit of country, a little bit of bluegrass, and a little bit of jazz, with about 50 other genres thrown in there for good measure. Whenever I mention him or his music outside of family circles, very few people know who he is or anything he’s done, but you wouldn’t know it by the nearly packed house last night at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace. And I’m sure everyone left satisfied.
While the concert advertised itself as the Tracker Tour, being tied to his latest album release, it rang more of “best of”, or (say it isn’t so) “farewell tour”. This was the first time I’ve seen him in concert, and I hope it isn’t the last, because he puts on a hell of a show.
He opened with a tune from Tracker, Broken Bones, an uptempo tune about a boxer, and quickly segued into one of my favorites from Privateering, Corned Beef City. The guitar really stood out on this one, a little reminiscent of Money for Nothing.
He took some time here to address the audience and introduce the band, switching to the acoustic guitar to give an excellent performance of Privateering. You could practically taste the swashbuckling. After that, he took a bit of a step back to allow the flute and the electric bagpipe (!) a chance to shine for The Long Road, one of many of his popular movie scores, this one from Cal.
He stayed on the acoustic for Hill Farmer’s Blues off of Ragpicker’s Dream, and went seamlessly into an equally jivin’ performance of Skydiver from his most recent effort. He showcased his impressive vocal abilities here, and it was one of the best performances of the show, but the song does suffer from the noticeable absence of Ruth Moody’s backing vocals.
After that, the excellent flautists got a chance to show off again in Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes, the opening track from Tracker and my personal favorite off that album. He stayed with the melancholy theme and after a great piano solo from Jim Cox, transitioned seamlessly into a beautiful performance of one of my favorite Dire Straits songs, Romeo and Juliet, off of Making Movies.
Sultans of Swing came next, arguably the most popular Dire Straits hit, and Knopfler showed he still has his guitar-playing chops and played some seriously impressive solos, adding some new flair to a 35+ year old song. Then, he went into the fairly guitar-light Mighty Man, a soulful tale about a gravedigger from his latest release.
After that came a lengthy introduction of each member of his band in which Knopfler made some great remarks about the caliber of his band mates, giving each of them a few moments in the spotlight before they all came together for a rollicking rendition of Postcards from Paraguay from Shangri-La. After that, he switched back to the acoustic for Marbletown, another one from Ragpicker’s Dream.
Immediately thereafter came Speedway at Nazareth from the criminally under-represented Sailing to Philadelphia, and then into an emotional and epic run of Telegraph Road, featuring an incredibly lengthy instrumental section that gave me goosebumps.
He faked us out after that, but quickly came back to give us one last Dire Straits hit with So Far Away, ending on a spectacular note with a heart-rending performance of Get Lucky’s Piper to the End, the only appearance by that album in the show.
Notable absences: Money for Nothing, What It Is, Beryl, Border Reiver, Cannibals (or anything else off of Golden Heart, for that matter), Heart Full of Holes (my personal favorite Knopfler tune, from Kill to Get Crimson, another album that made no appearance), Why Aye Man, Cleaning My Gun.
While it’s true I would’ve loved to hear more from him, and most of my favorites were absent, it was still an excellent show that showcased how varied and spectacular Knopfler’s repertoire is. He remains one of the most skilled player and songwriters in the business, and I truly hope this tour isn’t the last we see of him. He played for about two hours, all told, but I would’ve gladly sat through five. A fantastic show, and a fantastic showman.