Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Despite these tough economic times, music fans are still evidently willing to fork over big bucks to see their favorite artists perform. Yes, I attended four concerts this summer whose ticket prices exceeded $100. But when you dig this deeply into your wallet, you expect to get what you paid for. You expect to hear at least some of the songs for which the performer you are seeing is best known.  

Well, apparently Mark Knopfler didn’t get the memo. Knopfler (above), the brilliant former lead singer, lead guitarist and songwriter for Dire Straits, is touring with Bob Dylan this fall. And I see from a set list posted online that in a concert last weekend in Regina, Saskatchewan, Knopfler didn't play a single Dire Straits song. Really, Mark? Not one?

I think it's safe to say that the majority of people who pay to see Knopfler in concert hope and expect to hear at least some of the songs that made him famous. Dire Straits, one of my favorite bands, was deservedly one of the most popular bands in the world in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. 

One of the finest guitarists and songwriters we have, Knopfler is a unique, enduring and prolific artist who continues to write good songs. He’s released eight solo records. But can you name one song from Knopfler's solo career without resorting to Google? 

Chances are you can't. But I'll bet you can name plenty of Dire Straits songs. Just a few that come immediately to my mind are Sultans of Swing, Romeo and Juliet, Tunnel of Love, Making Movies, Private Investigation, Walk of Life, Lady Writer, Industrial Disease, Solid Rock, So Far Away, Down to the Waterline, Twisting by the Pool, and of course Money for Nothing.

I'm sure you’re getting my drift. As a singer-songwriter, I know it's an eternal quandary for a music artist to find that delicate balance in concert between your newer material that keeps you feeling vital as an artist, and the older, more familiar songs most of your fans pay to hear but of which you may have grown somewhat weary.

I personally like hearing a few new and/or more obscure tunes by artists when I see them live. But like most fans, I come to hear the tunes I know and love. Most artists honor that trust. Knopfler doesn't, and it ticks me off. 

And it seems to go beyond his desire to focus on the new. This guy is hell-bent on erasing his past. If you go to the Dire Straits website, guess where it takes you? To Knopfler's personal site, where, unbelievably, on Knopfler's bio page, Dire Straits isn't even mentioned by name. That's nuts.

Even if Knopfler only devoted, say, half his show to his solo stuff and half to Dire Straits songs, I'd be fine with it. Even if he only sang four or five Dire Straits songs, I wouldn't like it but I guess I could live with it. But that he plays only one Dire Straits song some nights and no Dire Straits songs on other nights is ridiculous. 

It's an insult to his longtime fans, especially since he's never had major commercial success with any of his solo work. While critics like almost everything he does - and so do I, for the record - none of the songs from his solo career have been big hits. 

Here's Knopfler's set list from that concert over the weekend:

1. What It Is
2. Cleaning My Gun
3. Sailing to Philadelphia
4. Privateering
5. Redbud Tree
6. I Used to Could
7. Song for Sonny Liston
8. Done with Bonaparte
9. I'm The Fool
10. Haul Away
11. Miss You Blues
12. Marbletown

Good songs, all. But would you be happy with this set, no matter how well they were performed? I know I wouldn't.

A contemporary of Knopfler’s who does a much better job of combining his familiar classics with his newer work is Colin Hay, lead singer and songwriter of another seminal 80s band, Men at Work. Hay is still making great music on his own, and he plays a lot of it in concert. But he doesn’t turn his back on his past.

Hay understands what made him famous. He knows what many of his fans want to hear. He still plays It’s a Mistake, Who Can it Be Now, Be Good Johnny, Overkill and other Men at Work classics. He still embraces his past while looking forward. In fact, this summer Hay released a newly recorded version of the the Men at Work classic Down Under in celebration of the song’s 30th anniversary.

Dire Straits formed in England in 1977. It would be great if, on this 35-year anniversary of the formation of his band, Knopfler would follow Hay's lead and honor his own past, and his fans, by playing a few Dire Straits songs. I guess that's just too much to ask of the mercurial Knopfler. I won't be attending any of his concerts in the future.


  1. Aging iconic pop stars, take note: Learn to love your own songs. They're your children. They support you in your old age.

    It is absolutely up to the artist to choose her or his own playlist for shows.

    But any artist that's made as much money as Mark Knopfler off fans who buy his music and attend his shows ... yo, Mark, you need to own some humility and show appreciation for all that cash.

    No one, Mark, including you, is so good that they can turn cold shoulders to the shoulders that hoisted them above the common wad in the first place.

    No one is so indispensable they can thumb an arrogant nose at their fan base -- the people who bought their house, their cars, their lifestyle, their very ability to make whatever records they choose -- they are not so valuable to the world that they can blow those people off.

    Me? If I come hear Mark Knopfler, I want Walk of Life and Sultans.

    All of us musicians and songwriters can and should do whatever we want in the studio. In concert, at $100 a pop or more? You're a whore to your past.

    Learn to love your own songs. They're your children. They support you in your old age...

  2. Thanks Bob, very well said, I could not agree more!

  3. I think your article deserves a comment from a Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler fan that is currently in a "dire straits" situation, so you can have a point of view from someone that your article is targeted to. I mean, a comment from someone that (really) can't afford to buy a ticket for the next Mark Knopfler gig concert. Obviously, as your introductory confession can tell, this it's not your case.

    Mark Knopfler is aware of the fact that everybody that goes to his concerts are expecting to hear songs from the Dire Straits days. Take a look a the documentary "Guitar Stories" where in somepoint he talks about that:


    Mark was invited to join the Bob Dylan's tour. It was not Mark's tour, but Bob Dylan's tour. Having said that, I think it's perfectly acceptable (and reasonable) the Mark's decision in not to play old stuff. Simply because the people that were attending to the shows were not there to see Mark Knopfler.

    Guy Fletcher, who you can well remember from the Dire Straits days, once have said the following about the setlist in the Bob Dylan's tour: "The pure fact that not everyone in the audience is automatically on your side from the word go."

    ON THE CONTRARY TO WHAT BOB SAAR IS SAYING IN HIS COMMENT, the Mark's decision in not to play old stuff reveals, indeed, a great sense of humility. The same humility that he has filled his whole career.

    In the mean time, I must say that you are not correct when you say that the setlist of that tour didn't included any of the Dire Straits songs. As you can see in this youtube video/audio ( the setlist included a Dire Straits song, in this case "So Far Away", in the encore.

    To Bob Saar: Learn not to live in the past. It will be better for you if you embrace the change, the new and the unknown! Learn not to live in the past!

    1. Nonsense, anonymous. But thanks for reading and commenting. Bob Saar is right, and you are wrong. Simple as that. It's not about living in the past. Give me a break. We're not saying he should do nothing but dire straits songs. But to do one, or in the case of the concert to which I was referring, none, is preposterous. Nice try, tho...

    2. Well, let me put things this way...

      Suppose you are known by your friends as a good singer. Suppose also that you have a good collection of songs that your (best) friends always want to hear from you. Now, suppose that you are invited by a friend of you to his own birthday party. What would you do if, in the middle of the dinner, your friend ask you to sing one, maybe two or three, songs? Would you sing 4 or 5 songs? Or would you dump all your repertoire, or at least the songs that all your friends love to hear from you, monopolizing the attention of everybody, people that might not be there to hear you but to cellebrate the birthday of another person? Would you???

      Mark Knopfler was invited by Bob Dylan, to join his tour. It was Bob Dylan's tour. Not a Mark Knopfler tour.

      I wonder what Colin Hay would have done if he had lucky enough to be invited by someone as big as Bob Dylan to join his tour...

      The concert to which you was referring, was a Bob Dylan's concert!

      What is preposterous is monopolize the attention of people when we are not on our own event, but of someone else!

    3. that makes utterly no sense whatsoever. who cares that it was a bod dylan concert. knopfler was the opening act. you;re saying he should not sing any of the songs for which he is best know because he isn't the headliner? what are you talking about?

    4. "who cares that it was a bod dylan concert"??? Oh god! I can't believe you are saying that!!! Who cares???

      So you attended to a Bob Dylan concert to see and hear Mark Knopfler??? If you are a real fan of Mark Knopfler, you should have waited a couple of months for a real Mark Knopfler tour, don't you think?!

      I guess you got the point... Anyway, who cares you didn't liked the setlist???

      In my country I would say: "Se não gostas, põe na beira do prato."

      Sorry, but I got no more comments for you... Have a good day!

    5. Yeah! And you are such an arrogant person that thinks that everybody are here on earth to satisfy your wishes, including people like Mark Knopfler!

      No wonder your article has received so many comments before mine...
      Shame on you...

      Bye bye!

    6. ha! yeah, i think everybody is on earth to satisfy my wishes. that's a good one. :) the painful truth is, you just aren't very intelligent. your arguments make absolutely no sense.

    7. Look, what makes absolutely no sense is to maintain this conversation.

      You know, today I gave myself some time to read your profile in your website and have discovered that you are also a musician. (Without knowing, the example I gave on my first response to your first response was, indeed, true! You are a singer and songwriter. Good to know.)

      So, being a musician, you should have more respect for the work and life of other musicians. Even if you don't like them. It is always inelegant to speak ill about someone that does the same thing we do. This is true in my coutry and I gues it is true also all over the world.

      So, I suppose that is you that is not being very inteligent here.

      And yes, your responses to my comments reveals a person that are upset just because Mark Knopfler didn't played "Sultans of Swing", "Romeo and Juliet", "Money for Nothing" and "Brothers in Arms", in the concert you attended and thinks that he should have played that songs just because you were expecting to hear them. You can be upset, of course you can! But publicly criticising someone arguing that he or she didn't respected your expectations, is something that reveals arrogance.

      You don't know what were his intentions. You even don't know what were the contract restrictions, if there were any. So, why criticise him???

      Mark Knopfler is such a humble person that accepted opening the concerts for Bob Dylan. One could say "Oh no! I started one of the biggest rock band in the world. I've played for millions of people before. I do not make openings. Pick another one." But, instead of rejecting the offer, he embraced it.

      What you say that it is an affront for his fans, in fact, is a attitude that denotes a great sense of humility.

      Humility that you, as a musician talking about another musician, should have revealed also.

      So, what I am doing here with you??? I guess that I'm wasting my time!...

      Good bye sir! Have a nice life!

    8. Funny that it makes no sense to you to maintain the conversation... and yet you just left another long post. if nothing else, you are entertaining. :)

  4. To Anonymous: The sad thing about some blogs and people who post opinions in them is this: It allows some people to opinionate while hiding behind the word Anonymous.

    Jamie Reno uses his name; why don't you? I use my name; why don't you?

    The answer is, likely, this: You don't really believe what you're saying.

    Posting is similar to a contractual agreement: If your word is good, then you'll have no hesitation in signing your name.

    So, Anonymous, please come out of the opinion closet and stand up for yourself.

    In the meantime, let me paraphrase Jamie: Until you do so, you are nothing else.

    Bob Saar

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  6. Thanks for all your comments. I've changed my tune on this subject. Have seen Knopfler a couple of times and his music is great but wouldn't it be nice to mix in half the Dire Straits songs. As comparison, saw 71 year old Paul McCartney last week play for almost 3 hours, treating the audience like he knew they were there to see songs that had meant so much to their lives. Truly a fabulous show, very generous performer.



  7. just read that chris rea is going to join dire straits and a name change to dire rea....

  8. I can understand some fans wanting to hear old hits. Personally, I don't share that view. If a musician wants to play new material only, I take it as an opportunity to explore something unexpected. If some hits are performed, that's fun too. As long as a musician/band play with passion in the moment, I'm all ears. Beyond that, I don't feel I'm owed anything more. But, as always, to each their own. :)

    1. ok, ken. so are you the wishy washiest person on the planet or what?

  9. I just saw knopfler tonight and he played a whopping 2 straits songs...Was kind of disappointing honestly when i went to hear the songs i remember and walk of life or money for nothing,only sultans and so far away

  10. Olá!
    Chamo-me Paulo Sérgio e sou um admirador de Mark Knopfler (Dire straits também) há muitos anos.
    Gostaria de deixar aqui um tributo, pois eu desde pequeno que tento tocar as suas músicas :)


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