Mark Knopfler Repaves Telegraph Road

Dire Straits driver dusts up Music City southwest

Two full hours Friday night at the Moody Theater barely allowed Mark Knopfler enough time to summarize a recording career now approaching four decades. The Glasgow-born picker, 66, picked carefully over his three selves: Dire Straits, soundtracks, solo. Only five songs starting 40 minutes in relived his UK hitmakers, but they proved the soul of the show.

“Proper, proper music town,” bowed the guitarist two songs in, greeting Austin.

Photo by Gary Miller

That the pair of openers clopped Nashvillian echoed his post-Dire Straits out-to-stud relocation in Tennessee. Eight solo albums, almost as many soundtracks, and collaborations with Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, and the Notting Hillbillies double up on his former group’s numbers, 1978-1995: six studio LPs, three live albums, and an Extended Play. 1985’s Brothers in Arms, the fourth best-selling album in UK chart history, binds Knopfler to his Stratocaster and National steel guitars, but by now Dire Straits recedes half a career ago.

There’s far more haves (The Ragpicker’s Dream) than have nots (March’s Tracker) in Knopfler’s guitar case following his onetime pop globalization alongside the likes of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna. 2013 double disc Privateering matches the ambition, execution, and six-string opiates of Dire Straits, whose sonic theater and timeless solos veer the band subtly away from Strat masters a la Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan into perfect album territory inhabited by Pink Floyd as axed by David Gilmour. Privateering’s title track and riff gnosh “Corned Beef City” out of the gate highlighted the country-folk and Celtic-tinged wait for fireworks.

And explosions in the sky did occur.

Sultry parlor sax touched off Brothers in Arms’ “Your Latest Trick” and acted like a snake charming to the sold-out theater, stirring the well-heeled couples and guitar nerds alike with the promise of the glory years. Call it warm-up to Knopfer’s true hat trick, replicating Shakespeare in song via his “Romeo and Juliet,” a pledge of love to make even its singer leave behind his live mumblecore for Making Movies’ suicide serenade. As then encored by Dire Straits’ debut single, 1978 cerebral pulse “Sultans of Swing,” the mid-show mini set made up for any sleepy soundtracking before and after.

That trio of tunes would’ve satisfied those of us old enough to have fallen for Knopfler’s guitar-lined Dylanesque the moment “Sultans of Swing” buzzed AM radio – we were never ever gonna get “Tunnel of Love” roaring in our ears live, nor an Apocalypse Now Redux-ready “Ride Across the River” – but then came a 14-minute rendition of “Telegraph Road” that couldn’t be followed by anything other than an encore. Lead-off track to fourth Dire Straits effort Love Over Gold, its elegiac arc defines a manifest musical destiny as powerful as say the Doors’ “When the Music’s Over.” Knopfler’s solo sliced elemental and torrential.

Euphoria. Standing ovation. Backslaps all around for Knopfler’s big band.

Proper, proper Moody magic.

ACL Live at the Moody Theater set-list, 9.25.15

“Broken Bones” (Tracker, 2015)
“Corned Beef City” (Privateering, 2013)
“Privateering” (Privateering, 2013)
“Father and Son” (Cal soundtrack, 1984)
“Hill Farmer’s Blues” (The Ragpicker’s Dream, 2002)
“Skydiver” (Tracker, 2015)
“She’s Gone” (Metroland soundtrack, 1999)
“Your Latest Trick” (Brothers in Arms, 1985)
“Romeo and Juliet” (Making Movies, 1980)
“Sultans of Swing” (Dire Straits, 1978)
“Mighty Man” (Tracker, 2015)
“Postcards from Paraguay” (Shangri-La, 2004)
“Marbletown” (The Ragpicker’s Dream, 2002)
“Speedway at Nazareth” (Sailing to Philadelphia, 2000)
“Telegraph Road” (Love Over Gold, 1982)


“So Far Away” (Brothers in Arms, 1985)
“Going Home: Theme from Local Hero” (Local Hero soundtrack, 1983)

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Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits, Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Notting Hillbillies, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Pink Floyd

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