ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 2, 1992
I don’t know which is worse, a rock band copying another artist, or a rock band copying itself. Dire Straits has always been somewhat guilty of the first offence, but the sizeable debt it owes to J.J. Cale has never really bothered me. It wasn’t until I heard the group remaking its own 1985 mega-hit, “Money for Nothing”—and calling it “Heavy Fuel”—that the British band dropped down a few notches on my list of personal faves.
Still, I wasn’t about to let one crummy clone song alienate me from a band I’d been following since the late ’70s, so with happy thoughts of Dire Straits’ good tunes in mind, I headed down to the Coliseum last Tuesday (March 31). How was I to know the band would start the show with another song I can’t stand?
“Calling Elvis” is another throwaway song from the latest album, On Every Street, a go-nowhere tune that did little but allow guitarist Mark Knopfler to warm up with some speedy country licks. Things picked up considerably with the sprightly “Walk of Life”, as the nine-piece band—powered by two full drum kits—kicked into gear.
The recruitment of Nashville pedal-steel guitarist Paul Franklin added some twangy spark to the proceedings, particularly on the band’s first hit, “Sultans of Swing”. “Telegraph Road”—a lengthy tune which somehow manages to call up both Springsteen and Supertramp—was another highlight, although nothing seemed to get the crowd very worked up. (I suppose all the real heavy-duty Dire Straits fans had snapped up tickets for the next night’s show, which had been announced first.)
Not surprisingly, Knopfler and his trusty guitar were the real stars of the show, and when he took to wrenching out the chilling notes of his moving anti-war masterpiece, “Brothers in Arms”, I forgave him for ripping off his own tunes.
But my forgiveness only lasted the length of that one glorious song.