Thursday, July 14
Never known for his personal charisma but rather for his mastery of the Stratocaster, Mark Knopfler performed a technically brilliant set of music at the Murat last Thursday, striking the perfect balance between his pop hits and his extended jams.
While Knopfler performed the hit singles he wrote with Dire Straits, the emphasis at the Murat was on his splendid guitar work, with most songs featuring lengthy solos and instrumental excursions.
He got "Walk of Life" and "Sultans of Swing" out of the way quickly, leaving time to focus on his solo instrumental material. While known as a great guitarist, Knopfler doesn't receive the acclaim the rock press hands out to Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan. That's unfortunate, because his axe skills are on a par with any of those legends.
Backed by a semi-anonymous but more than competent band, Knopfler mostly shut up and played his guitar. It's one thing to hear a legendary guitarist on disc but quite another to see the legend create the sounds live. His unique finger-picking skills give his solos a rich and soulful tone, whether he's using a steel guitar, Gibson or Strat.
He did engage the crowd in some patter, and toasted them with a cup of hot tea, but Knopfler was the refined country gentleman throughout the set, matching the ethereal, laid-back sounds emanating from his ever-changing arsenal of guitars.
After nearly two hours of tasteful, pleasing guitar solos, Knopfler finished up his show with "Money For Nothing," an indictment of the music industry that's still valid 20 years after its release, and "Shangri-La," the title track from his latest album.
Knopfler's career path shows that a great musician doesn't need to sell out in order to pack an auditorium with admiring fans, and the Murat stage was graced by his presence. The heavy turnout suggested he still has plenty of admirers in this market, which will hopefully translate into another appearance from him the next time he hits the road.