Mark Knopfler in Oakland

Last September, my friend Kyle forwarded me an announcement of the US tour dates for Mark Knopfler, which included a show in Oakland, California on April 13, 2010. It seemed a long, long time in the future, and I was worried that I might be traveling in China, but no matter: that very day I ordered two tickets from TicketMa$ter. They arrived. I added the date to my diary. And life went on.
Last week I realized with a shock that the tempus fugit stuff had been doing its thing, and the concert was taking place this week. I hunted for the tickets, and couldn’t find them. Never mind: a quick email to Ti¢ketMa$t€r resulted in the order being converted to “Will Call”. And so this evening I picked up Kate from the apartment and we braved the traffic and spine-crunching pavement of Interstate 880 to drive up to Oakland. We parked without difficulty, picked up the tickets, had a wonderful nouveau-Vietnamese dinner at Vo’s Restaurant, and went to the Paramount Theatre (which is worth a blog entry for itself).
Now I’ve been a huge Dire Straits fan ever since they released their first album in 1978, but I have never seen Mark Knopfler in concert – with D.S. or solo – before tonight. I know the “Alchemy” concert recording so well that I can play every number in my head, note-perfect. (And I was recently delighted to discover that the DVD of “Alchemy” is finally due for release this year!) So it’s fair to say that my expectations were unreasonably high, which also meant that my fears of being disappointed were also spiking up.
I was not disappointed. It was a simply wonderful show.
If you want to understand the lyrics to a Mark Knopfler song, you have to listen to the studio recording. In concert, he often mumbles the words and skips whole phrases. But it really doesn’t matter, because you can supply the words yourself, as you listen to the exquisite musicianship from Mark and his band.
It was a long set. I haven’t found the setlist on the internet yet, but I’m sure I will soon. (UPDATE: Here it is.) They played songs from most of Mark’s solo albums, and of these the standout was a glorious “Sailing To Philadelphia”. And they did five Dire Straits’ numbers: “Romeo and Juliet”, “Sultans of Swing” (yay!), “So Far Away”, “Brothers in Arms” (as powerful as ever), and (be still my beating heart) “Telegraph Road”. Complete. Uncut. Glorious. One of my favourite songs ever.
Forty years ago, I saw Pink Floyd at Essex University, and they played all of the numbers from the “live” disc of “Ummagumma”, which had just been released. I can still remember the quasi-spiritual experience of listening to “A Saucerful of Secrets”, with Dave Gilmour’s wordless “celestial voices” soaring over the mellotron. Today I saw Mark Knopfler and his band play Telegraph Road. It was another almost spiritual experience. What more could I ask for?
Thanks, Kyle!

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