Review by Simon Pinion
Mark Knopfler and friends, Shepherd's Bush Empire, July 24, 2002.
AN EVENING billed under a famous individual artist's name can be risky. Will
Mick Jagger just play his solo stuff or the Stones? Will Art Garfunkel stick
to solo obscurity or unleash a Simon and Garfunkel classic? The story was
the same with Mark Knopfler at Shepherd's Bush Empire.
Billed as Mark Knopfler and Friends, it was tricky to call. Hardly heard solo tunes or Dire Straits hits? The crowd (and me) were hoping for the latter.
This is something Mr Knopfler cleared up early. "We'll have Hillbillies stuff in the first half, going into the Straits in the second. If that's alright?" Everyone seemed to think it was more than alright.
It was the middle of three sold out nights, all in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, of which Mark Knopfler is a patron. It is always great to help an excellent cause at the same time as enjoying an event, and this was to be no exception.
The Hillbillies (some of them do fit their name!) came on to Calling Elvis, which is a Dire Straits tune, but which was obviously chosen to kickstart the evening. I wasn't familiar with the rest of their set, but enjoyed it nevertheless.
There were three band members (one of them Knopfler) who could take on lead vocals. All of them had excellent voices which were matched to the Hillbillies' varying styles. Going from country to rock to blues, their set had something for everyone. Their togetherness and obvious enjoyment of the music, along with Knopfler's guitar solos, made it enjoyable to even virgin Hillbillie listeners.
The arrival of Jools Holland for a couple of tunes spiced it up even more.
The second half of the show really upped the tempo from the Hillbillies' meandering first half. The highlights of which were Sultans of Swing, Money For Nothing, Brothers in Arms, Walk of Life and Romeo and Juliet, to name a few.
This is the time when the crowd seemed to know every word and await every guitar note; there was even a stage when the crowd went into a kind of impromptu football chant and the band improvised a musical accompaniment.
The new track they played was the title track from Auf Weidersehen II soundtrack, which saw Jimmy Nail come out to sing backing vocals. "I needed a genuine Geordie for this one," Knopfler said. This is what he got, Jimmy Nail loved every minute and even stayed on for Money For Nothing, taking Sting's role.
Money For Nothing, closely followed by the Brothers in Arms guitar solo, were my personal highlights. Mark Knopfler's super laidback style, and stage banter, make it obvious why he is seen as a great frontman. With over a two-hour set, his work in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust was superb and I think anyone who allowed their 'Walk of Life' to take them to Shepherd's Bush would be pleased they did.
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