So this is what Mark Knopfler has been up to the past 13 years …
I’ll admit, I haven’t kept up with Mark Knopfler’s musical output post-Dire Straits. (Who has, really?) So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel on Thursday night, knowing that his set list would likely be heavy on solo material and light on stuff I’d actually heard before.
I emerged some two hours later feeling as if I’d discovered a great new artist. Though Knopfler played five Dire Straits tunes -- “Romeo and Juliet,” “Sultans of Swing,” “Telegraph Road,” “Brothers in Arms” and “So Far Away” -- it was the rest of the show that left the most lasting impression. Songs like “Sailing to Philadelphia,” “Marbletown,” “Speedway at Nazareth” and especially “Hill Farmer’s Blues” were revelations, welcome new vehicles (at least to me) for the 58-year-old’s instantly recognizable guitar tone, dexterous finger style and wailing-but-never-flashy approach to soloing.
Though the sold-out crowd reacted loudest to the “Romeo”/”Sultans” pairing toward the end of the main set, my Straits highlight was easily “Telegraph Road” -- a big-then-bigger-then-huge-at-the-finish version that closed out the main set. Energy waned a bit during a four-song encore (particularly when Knopfler spoiled the sinister feel of “Brothers in Arms” by pausing mid-song to admonish an audience member for cell-phone video recording), but instrumental “Going Home” -- yet another tune conceived by Knopfler outside the confines of his famous British band -- proved a worthy capper to a surprisingly powerful performance.