Mark Knopfler’s guitar steals the show in Vancouver on Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms tour

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mila geran photo

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 27, 1985

By Steve Newton

“Rock and roll Vancouver,” announced Mark Knopfler half-way through Monday’s (September 23) Dire Straits show at the Pacific Coliseum. And when his band swung into the twist-and-shout rocker “Walk of Life”, the crowd did as they were told. A mass of fans started up the aisles towards the front of the stage–held back briefly as a lone security guy grappled with the leader of the pack.

“You can’t stop them,” said Knopfler, and the burly bouncer gave up the struggle. Seconds later the stage-front was a sea of bopping bodies, and those of us with floor tickets had to stand on our seats to keep track of the action.

Two kids managed to climb onstage, and do their own little “walks of life” before being escorted off. And amid all the commotion, Knopfler managed to keep a considerate eye on the heaving populace up front. “We’ve got some little ones there,” he cautioned, pointing to an area at his right. “Be careful with them, please.”

But things didn’t calm down any for the next tune, the hit single “Money For Nothing”. It was clearly the song a lot of people had been waiting for, and the Straits made it last (as with “Sultans of Swing”) by working in extended sax and guitar solos.

Dressed in a plain white cowboy-style shirt, grey pants, white runners, and a black headband, Knopfler sang about the “yo-yo’s” that play the “gitar” on the MTV and get their chicks for free. Sting of the Police wasn’t around, so rhythm guitarist Jack Sonni sang the line “I want my…I want my…I want my MTV.”

Lanky and lean bassist John Illsley–aside from Knopfler the only original member left–grinned steadily and played that way too. Keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher filled out the spacious sound, saxman/flautist Chris White added tasty woodwind bits, and drummer Terry Williams kept it all in place.

But the main attraction was bandleader/singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler’s scintillating lead guitar. Whether playing a National steel guitar (the one pictured on their new LP) for “Romeo and Juliet”, a whammy-barred Steinberger for “One World”, or a sunburst Les Paul for the first encore, “Brothers in Arms”, Knopfler always hit home with his soulful and bluesy fingerpicking.

The concert ended with the appropriate “Going Home”, the theme from the movie Local Hero, which Knopfler did the soundtrack to. While the band continued playing the house lights came on, and the crew started tearing down the equipment. It was a smooth way to close down a good two hours of music from one of rock’s most genuine bands.

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