Mark Knopfler @ Manchester Arena
Ex Dire Straits front man, Mark Knopfler, returned to Manchester to perform several tracks from his latest solo album Tracker and thrown in for good measure were some of the Dire Straits’ classics, notably Sultans of Swing, Romeo and Juliet, and So Far Away From Me.
It’s clear from the new material that Knopfler has moved on from Dire Straits and he seems to make no apology for this. The new tracks are a mixture of Celtic Folk, blues rock and a little country thrown in too (I defy you not to think of the theme tune to Titanic at least once in the gig). He brings together a large eclectic mix of musicians with a plethora of instruments. In fact I think you would be hard pushed to find an instrument at least one of this lot couldn’t play! The set includes Irish whistles, saxophone, accordion, piano, organ, mandolins, uilleann pipes, Mandola’s, guitars, double bass, violins, Drums and several thousand pounds worth of guitar changes for Knopfler, including Gibson Les Paul’s, 3 vintage Fender Stratocasters, acoustic Martins and the infamous 1938 National Style O from the Brothers in Arms Album cover, (Drool)!
Looking around the arena the average age of the Knopfler fan is about 45–50, not bad considering the man himself is 65, but they have clearly come to be entertained for their £50+ ticket price and are not disappointed. The stage is a simple affair with nothing fancy, it didn't need it due to the calibre of musicians on-stage, all eyes were on them.
Knopfler played in his usual laid back, effortless manner and was absolutely note perfect. Showing that, although he has over 30 years in the music business, he is still in possession of and continues to fine tune his remarkable talent. Mark and his fellow musicians seemed to genuinely enjoy the concert as much as the audience and for the most part looked like a gang of old mates jamming with each other and having fun while they did. We the audience were along for the ride encouraged to join in in whatever way we wanted to.
Knopfler started with Tracker's Broken Bones. An upbeat number which soon has many an arthritic knee moving in time with the compulsary head bobbing before moving seamlessly in to blues, country, Celtic folk with Privateering. Knopfler is joined onstage at several points in the evening by Ruth Moody and they sing the truly beautiful Wherever I Go together. The multi-talented group consisting of, amongst many others, long standing collaborator Guy Fletcher, as well as Nigel Hitchcock on Sax , Jim Cox on piano & accordion and, Richard Bennett, with Michael McGoldrick and Scottish multi-instrumentalist John McCusker being named as the pipe twins!
As Knopfler and co slip in to Romeo and Juliet just over half way through the set, immediately followed by Sultan’s of Swing the crowd shows their pleasure with a standing ovation and tidal wave of 50 something men playing along with their very own Gibson air guitar!
We then dip back in to the new material for Mighty Man again going back to the Celtic folk vibe, then comes Marbletown which whips the audience in to a jigging frenzy as we all get behind the violin and double bass solo instrumental before the band then leave the stage.
After what seems like an eternity of clapping, cheering and foot stomping the band returns for the longest ever encore including So Far Away From Me, Our Shangri-La and Telegraph Road. The arena is up on its feet, either dancing or grateful to stretch very cramped legs. This is an encore that keeps on coming, a multiple encore, the crowd shout for more but alas, after more than 2 hours of melodious music, Mark’s spent, he turns out the light and slips out the backdoor leaving the audience wanting more!
Words: Adele Saunders-Sutcliffe | Photos: Phil Goddard