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Concert Reviews:
Knopfler Fans Get "Lucky" in Ann Arbor
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK



ANN ARBOR -- Mark Knopfler apologized to the Michigan Theater crowd on Tuesday night (April 27) "for not being able to do double pirouettes."

Apparently the former Dire Straits leader woke up that morning with some sort of physical malady, which forced him to play the just over two-hour show seated in a swivel chair on stage. "I definitely pulled something," he said. "Maybe it's a pinched something. But It's OK...as long as I keep my leg horizontal."

Fortunately, whatever he suffered from had nothing to do with Knopfler's hands.

Though he's an accomplished and literate songwriter and a better singer than he's often given credit for (though Tuesday's sound mix didn't help in that regard), most fans come to Knopfler's shows to hear him play guitar -- that fluid, finger-picking acumen he introduced on Dire Straits' first hit, "Sultans of Swing," in 1978 and has only developed further during the intervening years of solo projects and film soundtracks. And he didn't disappoint them on Tuesday, leading his seven-piece band -- bolstered this year by the addition of multi-instrumentalists Michael McGoldrick and Tim O'Brien -- through sublime versions of 14 of his songs, trawling his solo releases and dipping into the Dire Straits canon for a few favorites, although notably leaving out the breakthrough smash "Money For Something," which would have surely sounded out of place amidst the set's rootsy and restrained flavor.

Knopfler wasted little time displaying his six-string dexterity, punctuating the end of "Border Reiver" -- the lead-off track from his latest release, 2009's "Get Lucky" -- with a few choice riffs from his red Fender Stratocaster before galloping into "What It Is." But Knopfler has an ensemble heart, so the spotlight made its way around the rest of the band throughout the evening, whether it was O'Brien singing James Taylor's duet parts on "Sailing to Philadelphia," Glenn Worf driving "Coyote" with funky upright bass licks or McGoldrick accenting several songs with flute and pipe solos.

Highlights included...well, just about everything Knopfler and company performed but particularly the dynamic "Hill Farmer's Blues," an aching "Donegan's Gone" and a "Speedway at Nazareth" that grew from a rapturous start into a fierce close.

A tight rendering of the Dire Straits epic "Telegraph Road" made up for the tossed-off quartet treatment of "Sultans..." -- which Knopfler referred to as "four-piece frivolity" -- while the group ably handled the textures of "Romeo & Juliet" and enriched "Brothers in Arms" and "So Far Away" with ringing mandolin and bouzouki, lending some new life to a couple of well-worn pieces of Knopfler's catalog.

It may have been hard for Knopfler to stand up on Tuesday, but in the end it didn't matter. His music stood up quite well in his stead.

Knopfler's Michigan Theater set list included...

"Border Reiver"

"What It Is"

"Sailing to Philadelphia"

"Coyote"

"Prairie Wedding"

"Hill Farmer's Blues"

"Romeo & Juliet"

"Sultans of Swing"

"Donegan's Gone"

"Get Lucky"

"Marbletown"

"Speedway at Nazareth"

"Telegraph Road"

(encores)

"Brothers in Arms"

"So Far Away"

"Piper at the End"

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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