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Concert Reviews:
Mark Knopfler plays for "sweet" Ann Arbor crowd

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, October 4, 2015

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ANN ARBOR -- A couple of times during his concert Sunday night, Oct. 4, at the Michigan Theater, Mark Knopfler feigned flying by the seat of his pants, explaining how a song would begin and wishing his band members the best of luck following his lead.

As if.

There are plenty of virtues to seeing Knopfler live, not the least of which is the nimble, almost offhanded guitar playing that's made him one of rock's best and certainly most distinctive. But perhaps even better is the tight ensemble sensibility he clearly revels in, setting himself up as the fulcrum for the other seven players (eight on the several songs featuring saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock) and framing his songs in layers of complementary instruments, including bouzoukis, fiddles, ukuleles and all manners of guitars.

That was the charm of Sunday's two-hour, 16-song performance, which won out over a P.A. mix that put out far too much sound for the intimate theater. Knopfler's vocals were barely audible during the night's loudest numbers -- and not particularly clear on the others -- while the keyboards and other nuances were often buried in the bombast. Quieter and more dynamically textured songs such as "Privateering," "Postcards From Paraguay," "Haul Away," the poppy "Skydiver" and Dire Straits favorites such as "Your Latest Trick" and "Romeo and Juliet" fared best, but the likes of "Broken Bones," "Corned Beef City" and "Speedway At Nazareth" suffered from, though enough of the key elements still came through to establish that the group was playing them well.

Those wanting extended improvisations were well-served by a pairing of "Father And Son" and "Hill Country Blues" as well as a lengthy, ebb-and-flow romp through "Marbletown." Dire Straits' "On Every Street," played for just the third time on Sunday after what Knopfler said was a 23-year hiatus, was a welcome inclusion, though the group's "Sultans of Swing," performed with just a quartet, sounded perfunctory but undeniably crowd-pleasing. And even a bit of rushing didn't diminish the majesty of an encore that included Dire Straits' "So Far Away" and Kopfler's "Local Hero" film theme "Going Home."

The glib Knopfler clearly appreciated the attentive and enthusiastic sold-out Ann Arbor crowd, deeming it "very sweet." If nothing else, it certainly deserved kudos for hearing through a sound mix that could have easily soured the evening.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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