Mark Knopfler at Meadowbrook Music Festival

Not Deep Purple, not Bob Dylan, not Santana, not Eric Clapton, not U2, it was the sultan of swing - Mark Knopfler, who I’ve always waited for. It would be any ragpicker’s dream to see his guitar hero in the flesh. It was one concert I wouldn’t have missed for anything in the world. I have not spent money for nothing to own every record (almost) that he has ever made. Dear brothers in arms, here is the low-down on the concert.

Avoiding Telegraph Road which tends to get crowed in the evening, we (Romeo and Juliet) simply took I-75 to the Meadowbrook Music Festival. It is similar to, but smaller than the DTE Music Theatre and it lacks the fancy big screens making it, as some say, an ‘intimate atmosphere’. From my not-so-intimate lawn seat, the stage was so far away from me that I did not have the greatest view of the action. Some come to listen, others like me come to watch, especially to watch every expression and I love to see the fingers move. This time we were well-prepared with blankets and food. At end of the Santana concert, it was very late; we were starving; found nothing except a Denny’s, and Denny’s after midnight is one weird place. Why worry?

Coming back to the concert, the opening act was Bap (as in baap re baap, no really!) Kennedy (from Belfast), who was more of a filler than an opening act. It was Kennedy on the acoustic and another dude from Nashville - who was the real redeemer of the duo - on the lead/slide guitar. All the songs were in honour of, or honouring Elvis Presley or Hank Williams. I mean this guy is not playing Elvis or Hank but singing about/to them. You know that sort of inspiration leads to. He was ‘Less than OK’. Can’t they get anyone better to open for Mark Knopfler? In fact, anyone from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival could have done better.

Then just boom, like that Mark Knopfler burst onto the stage playing Why Aye Men. The reasons to like Mark Knopfler are numerous. Firstly, he is a finger-picking electric guitar god. Secondly, for all the guitar gods in the pantheon his songwriting is far above most, simply fantastic to say the least. His songwriting is inspired by Bob Dylan (who isn’t?) - Dylanesque, but not the same sort of impenetrable lyrics. Ever wondered as you want your MTV, how many rock-stars have mocked themselves and the music industry? He is a former English teacher and it shows. Some sample themes: Bonaparte’s failed Russia campaign, Imelda Marcos, Nazi war criminals, roadside Romeos, the Mason-Dixon line, the fast-food industry, Turkish guest-workers in Germany, gay strippers, the fading of jazz, the futility of war, and yes, great love songs too! You can’t like MK right away, I didn’t. He grows on you so subtly. You begin to hum through the hooks and refrains and then one day find yourself a fan. Thirdly, he has to be enjoyed slowly, and in bits; however, today I was prepared to relax that restriction and hear everything that the great red-bandana-populariser had to offer.

I managed to sneak in the ‘where-you-jangle-your-jewelry’ seats and take some close-up movies before I was kicked out by security. MK, I must add is among the few artists who don’t mind people taking movies or bootlegs as long as they don’t make commercial use of it. Good lad! Anyway I am still stuck with this camera with poor zoom and poor nighttime results!

I enjoyed him play on the Strat and the Gibson Les Paul, but the greatest moment of the day was to see him play the slide on the silver-steel National guitar on Donegan’s Gone. I can still see the vision of one floating on the cover of Brothers in Arms. The most amusing moment of day was his drinking tea in the middle of the set. Before that he introduced all the members of his band in his Scottish accent and while introducing, Matt Rollins he said, ‘He forgot his accordion on the bus, but I brought it in’. Can’t see how they could have played Done With Bonaparte without the accordion.

He played a lot of songs (see the Set List below) and yet I felt he did not play this song or that. This was supposed to be the Shangri-La tour, but he did not play much from that album except for two songs. I really wished he had played more from Shangri-La and I was dying to hear The Trawlerman’s Song. I also wished to hear Down to the Waterline and Why Worry?, I assumed that he would do the bonus track Do America from Sailing to Philadelphia.

Earlier in the day on radio he said that his current line-up plays Dire Straits better than the Straits and after hearing the band today I admit that this is true and offer the videos as proof. Today I become one of those fans overcome with silliness to buy the ridiculously priced T-shirts. Baloney again, but that's worship, that’s what it is!

Videos:(will uploaded by Monday)
Walk of Life
Money For Nothing

Mark Knopfler
Venue: Meadowbrook Music Festival
Date: July 8th, 2005

Set List

1) Why Aye Men

2) The Walk of Life

3) What It Is

4) Sailing to Philadelphia

5) Romeo and Juliet

6) Sultans of Swing

7) Done With Bonaparte

8) Song for Sonny Liston

9) Rudiger

10) Donegan’s Gone

11) Boom like That

12) Speedway At Nazareth

13) Telegraph Road

14) Brothers in Arms

15) Money for Nothing

16) So Far Away from Me


Ashutosh said...

Lucid description! Never heard anything by him. Must give it a shot.
Bap as in 'baap re baap'?! :))

Anirudh said...

Knopfler is a guitar god! Lucky you..nice piece.

Javed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Javed said...

A nice post although a bit late, i guess. I think there's no better proof about the Knopfler-Dylan connection than in the Ragpicker's album. i.e. "Ain't no work on Maggie's Farm..." and "When Jack Frost came for Christmas...". There could be some more i've missed.

Hirak said...

He is Sachin Tendulkar's favourite artist. (For many this reason is sufficient)

Ajay said...

Awesome. My pilgrimage will have to wait, since the show here (in WA State, and the one in Portland, OR) sold out over a month ago, and scalpers are making a killing on craigslist and e-bay :-(

Around 4-5 years back, Sachin was being interviewed on some show on ESPN-Star, and they patched through Mark Knopfler, live from the UK. Needless to say, Sachin was blown away. I didn't see it myself (Was told about it later by a fellow-in(to)-Dire Straits), but imagine Sachin being a gushing fan about someone on TV.

Sumeet said...

I really like your music posts....
I am nowhere close to being as evolved a rock fan as you are, so this is educative as well.
have you seen this?

Hirak said...

Too bad! But somone living in the Seattle area can't complain much since there is so much great music and great music doesn't always need great names. Right?

Thanks and thanks again for the great link. It's a great concept - Music on demand and free.
The Rolling Stone radio has some nice 'Best of ..' collections.
Link to RS

Ajay said...

Hirak, that's true. There seems to be so much going on here that its hard to keep track. Still getting the hang of the place, though I have a few smaller gigs (to go to) lined up.

anjali said...

Knopfler's an all-time favourite with me and everything you say in your post rings so true. He played a few months ago in Bangalore and I went down from Delhi to hear him. He's probably one of the very few I would have the enthu to do that for, if not the only one :) -
I haven't yet heard Shangri-La and after reading your post I realize I must immediately do so!

Hirak said...

Hope you grab all the gigs with both hands especially the free ones.

The trip was worth it wasn't it? Yes, Shangri-La is great!!