Words & Images by: Tim Dwenger
Mark Knopfler :: 06.24.08 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO
It's been said time and time again, and it's true, Red Rocks is one of the most beautiful places in the world to see a concert. However, there are some musicians that seem to bring out the beauty in the venue more than others, some musicians that just seem to have been molded with the venue in mind. Mark Knopfler is one of those musicians. His unmistakable guitar tone, subtle vocal delivery and the way he deftly walks the line between folk and rock all lend themselves beautifully to the confines of the majestic rocks.
On this particular night everything seemed to fall into place. With perfect weather and a capacity crowd that waited eagerly, all that remained was for the "Sultan of Swing" himself to take the stage and prove yet again why he is known as one of the best guitarists in the world.
Just before 9:00 p.m., as darkness was closing in, Knopfler and his seasoned band took the stage and launched into "Cannibals" from his 1996 album, Golden Heart. It was great to see the band delving into the back catalogue right from the get go. It was the first show of a lengthy North American Tour and it was clear right away that this was going to be a show for the fans and that he wasn't going to be pushing the new record down our throats all night. Don't get me wrong, it's a good record, but a good concert has to highlight material from the artist's entire career.
Though the band has played all over Europe this year already, they seemed to be shaking off some cobwebs for the first couple of songs. About three tunes in, Knopfler cracked his first smile during "What It Is" and it became clear that the band was hitting their stride and falling back into the old groove.
Throughout the two hour and twenty minute show I noticed something that I have caught before at Knopfler's shows, the phrasing he uses on the older Dire Straits songs like "The Sultans of Swing" is not what it used to be. While it doesn't seem radically different enough to say that he has rearranged the songs, he has definitely slowed them down a little bit. The most telling example of this was on "Romeo and Juliet" when the crowd, singing in perfect unison, was about five words ahead of Knopfler. Maybe he's slowed with age or maybe this is how the songs have evolved over the years; it's not bad, it's just different.
| Mark Knopfler :: 06.24 :: Red Rocks|
While the lyrical phrasing may have changed a bit, Knopfler's guitar playing is 100-percent on point. As he rotated among a bright red Fender Strat, a tobacco sunburst Les Paul, a couple of different steel bodied resonator guitars and an acoustic, his distinctive tone reverberated through the amphitheatre and evoked familiar feelings.
Knopfler further cultivated the old friend vibe by pulling up a chair with the Les Paul across his knee and running through the brilliant country shuffle of "Sonny for Sonny Liston" from his 2004 album, Shangri-La. Throughout the evening, Knopfler's song choices kept the audience in the palm of his hand, bringing the house to their feet with up-beat rockin' numbers like "Why Aye Man" and settling us back down with the soothing strains of seminal Dire Straits classic "Brothers In Arms."
Though there weren't too many new musical tricks up his sleeve, Knopfler did step up the visual aspect of this tour a bit when a giant circular close-up of the bridge and strings of his National guitar descended from the rafters during "Speedway At Nazareth" to serve as a backdrop to the band for a lengthy, solo-laden version of finale "Telegraph Road," which sounded every bit as fresh as it did in 1982.
After a brief break, Knopfler and his band returned to the stage and ran through four songs, which, with the exception of "So Far Away," seemed at the time to be a bit too mellow for their placement in the show. Looking back at it now, it may have just been Knopfler's way of letting us down easy and easing the transition back to the real world that waited at the bottom of Red Rocks' steep staircases and winding roads.
Mark Knopfler tour dates available here.
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