Written by Jim Bille
Mark Knopfler’s show last Friday night at The Smart Financial Center in Sugarland will be one to remember for a couple of reasons. One being that Knopfler has not played the Houston area for more than twenty years, and the other being the pristine and precise execution of Knopfler’s music by himself and an incredible ten piece ensemble.
Backed by long time collaborators and musical luminaries Richard Bennet – guitar, Jim Cox – piano, Ian Thomas – drums. Graeme Blevens – saxophone, Danny Cummings – percussion, Guy Fletcher – Keyboards, John McCluster -fiddle & cittern, Mike McGoldrick – whistle & flute, Tom Walsh – trumpet and Glenn Wolf on bass, Knopfler put together a two hour collection of both new and old material that spanned most of his career.
Dire Straits fans were treated to at least five songs from that era of Knopfler’s extensive catalog that included “Romeo and Juliet”, “Your Latest Trick”, “On Every Street” and of course the enduring crowd pleaser, “Money for Nothing”. My personal favorite had to be “Once Upon a Time in The West” from the Dire Straits album Communiqué.
This particular tour is called the Down The Road Wherever tour which usually means that you would expect to hear many tunes from his newest album of the same name. However, Knopfler chose to only highlight a couple of new numbers, “My Bacon Roll” and “Matchstick Man”.
Knopfler recounted the inspiration for “ Matchstick Man” by admitting that the song was in fact about himself as a teenager hitchhiking on the A1 heading north during a snowy Christmas and being literally left out in the cold after being dropped off in the middle of nowhere by a truck driver.
Another song with a more peculiar story of inspiration was “Done with Bonaparte”. According to Knopfler the tune is about a French solider trying to flee Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
“Postcards From Paraguay” from Knopfler’s 2004 release Shangri –La featured some jumping horns throughout that added to the songs jaunting rumba sound. As the song progressed it became more and more frantic with all band members contributing some incredible bits and pieces mixed up but perfectly balanced.
“Speedway at Nazareth” opened innocently enough as a mid tempo ballad as many of Knopfler’s songs do but by midway through the song the band escalated the number maxing out with Knopfler’s well honed guitar playing and rolling the song up with a thrilling crescendo.
I’ve always been a sucker for slide guitar work and Knopfler delivered some of the best he had to offer with his jumping number “Corned Beef City”.
“Why Aye Man” from the 2002 release The Rag Pickers Dream was another notable tune this evening and probably the song closet to sounding like the old Dire Straits material.
The many years wait to see Mark Knopfler’s return to Houston was absolutely worth it. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take him another twenty years to get back here.