Dire Straits bestrode the world in the 1980’s, ignoring fashion and the fickle nature of fame, they released albums of thoughtful well thought out music. The fact they were led by Mark Knopfler, one of the country’s finest all round guitarists, composers and song writers was a massive factor in their success, which Knopfler’s own solo career attests to, but he always surrounded himself with the best musicians on the bands albums, gigs and tours.
One of these musicians was Alan Clarke, the pianist and keyboard player who toured and recorded with the band from the early 1980’s, until their final tour in 1992. The other former member playing on the night was Chris White, who added his distinctive, melodious Saxophone style to proceedings.
The Straits were supported by John Allen, a Radio 2 favourite, who played a well received set of his own music, such as the love song Joanne and Dead Man’s Suit with it bluesy backing.
The Straits started with Private Investigations – one of the groups more ambitious songs, but not the most natural set opener. Terence Reiss, filling in for Knopfler on lead vocals and guitar was a talented replacement, but he sounded better when he was trying too hard to be a clone of Knopfler’s distinctive vocals.
A largely greatest hits set list followed, with songs such as Walk of Life with its country rock backbeat and guitar soloing was an early highlight.
As a band, Dire Straits were never known for their brevity. Punk anger and three minute songs where never really their strong point, but their longer songs, such as Telegraph Road and Romeo and Juliet with its soaring saxophone solo were well received by a sparse, but enthusiastic Monday night audience.
Problems with pacing meant that the more obvious crowd pleasing songs, such as Money for Nothing or Sultans of Swing were left until the end. An encore of Portobello Belle was a fitting finale, and gave a soulfulvocal interlude to The Straits keyboard player Jamie Squires.
The purists and die hard Dire Straits fans have been quick to criticise this new ensemble. Although I can understand their misgivings, this group was never seen as a replacement for the band. The albums are freely available for fans to listen to. This was a gig that was good musicians playing good songs in the live arena, and The Straits are a fine ensemble in their own right. There are plans for the Straits to release their own music in the future. If the gig was anything to go by, it will be worth looking out for.