Fans of timeless songwriting and radiant guitar playing flocked to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre on September 22nd to hear Mark Knopfler and his eleven-piece band perform hits and non-hits from throughout his 40 plus year career. The four-time Grammy winner and 2018 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Dire Straits) lived up to his lofty musical reputation.
While far removed from the “Money for Nothing.” Walk of Life” video stardom he achieved in the ’80s, Knopfler remains today at age 70, a brilliant player and songwriter. Since Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, he has recorded and produced nine solo albums and has also composed and produced film scores for nine movies. Including Dire Straits releases, Knopfler has sold over 120 million records. The Greek show drew from his catalog of solo material and a few choice selections from his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band.
The show opened with a string of songs from his solo catalog that included “Why Aye Man,” “Corned Beef City,” and “Sailing to Philadelphia.” The crowd was thrilled to see Knopfler and gave warm support to his bandmembers, several of whom have been with him since he went solo in 1996. The crowd roared in appreciation when Mike McGoldrick played the familiar opening flute notes and was followed by Tom Walsh’s blaring trumpet for Dire Straits’ “Once Upon A Time In The West.” That opening track from 1979’s Communiqué album featured Knopfler’s distinctive guitar tone as he blasted out the recognizable tune.
The band followed that up with Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet,” from the 1980 album Making Movies. Graham Blevins played a beautiful saxophone solo during the composition. Before playing “My Bacon Roll,” a new track from his 2018 album Down the Road Wherever, Knopfler talked to the crowd about his history with The Greek Theatre and how he is contemplating calling it a career. He said the first time he made it to The Greek was on a Greyhound bus ticket. The second time, he was playing a show on stage. He said since it is such a beautiful night, venue and crowd, “what could be better than this? Maybe I should go on until I fall off the stool.” The crowd laughed and roared their approval.
The band played a few more of his solo tracks before Dire Straits’ “Your Latest Trick” from the 1985 Brothers in Arms album. Jim Cox’s vibrant piano playing and Graeme Blevins sax solo complemented Knopfler’s guitar. Walsh played a magnificent trumpet solo on “Postcards From Paraguay” before Knopfler quietly half sang and talked his way through the Dire Straits ballad “On Every Street,” the title track from the 1991 album that followed 1985’s Brothers in Arms.
The set ended with “Speedway at Nazareth.” Knopfler’s fuzzy guitar riffs filled the air as the band jammed along with their leader. Each member waved and bowed before walking off the stage. The brief break ended as drummer Ian Thomas, percussionist Danny Cummings, keyboardist Guy Fletcher and Cox came out under low mood lighting. They played recorded snippets and the memorable intro to “Money For Nothing” and the remaining bandmembers reentered the stage with the spotlight on Knopfler as he wailed on his guitar and sang the familiar lyrics along with the audience.
The band left the stage again, but the lights stayed low. Everyone hoped for a “Sultans of Swing” grand finale, but it was not meant to be. The band closed the show with the instrumental “Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero),” from the soundtrack to Local Hero, a 1983 comedy-drama film that Knopfler scored.
Mark Knopfler is still a brilliant guitarist, songwriter, performer and generous bandleader. He surrounds himself with excellent bandmates – each is given the chance to show his chops. During recent interviews, Knopfler has hinted that this go-around will be his last tour. Last April in Barcelona, Knopfler confirmed to a live audience that the on-going tour would be his last tour ever: we hope he changes his mind and keeps performing until he falls off that stool.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2019.