Originally slated to start at the ridiculously early time of 7.30 and end at 9.30 (honestly, we had to check whether they had started running a club night at the LG Arena) the show was eventually put back due to the traffic problems that had beset the M6.
Mark Knopfler, when he takes the stage at just before 8pm, enquires as to our welfare: “Are we all in now?” he asks. “Yes, we took the train,” comes the shout from the side. Ladies and gentleman welcome to Birmingham.
Always eager to be different, RTM has no huge knowledge of Dire Straits, the band that made Knopfler famous. Of course, we know the greatest hits just like everyone else, but, perhaps in a minority in the packed venue we are here solely based on Knopfler’s solo material.
His new album “Privateering” is a quite remarkable sprawling, double album of chilled out blues and one which we absolutely feel in love with upon hearing it at the start of the year. Tonight’s show begins with a trio songs from it. “What It Is,” “Corned Beef City” and the title track. All magnificent, and all highlights, but if pushed we would go for “…City” as the pick. Yes it trawls the oft used lyrical motif of a down on his luck hero who is forced to break the law to make ends meet, but it surely the only one to contain the lyric “bacon egg and sausage/double chips and beans,” therein surely is Knopfler’s charm.
An absolutely stunning blues guitarist – albeit one that doesn’t need the solo’s of a Clapton or Bonnamassa, he has a fine band alongside him, with flute and fiddle players to the fore, giving the evening a real folky feel.
There are a smattering of Straits songs too “Romeo And Juliet” is rapturously received, as is the epic set closer “Telegraph Road.” The whole thing is remarkably consistent, with only the rather pointless jam in the middle of “Marbletown” offering a low point.
There is another in “So Far Away” in the encore, before the band give their only concession to “Arena Rock” by hamming it up and making it look like they are deciding there and then to play a second song. Such things do not really work in the internet age, when it is easy to find out that exactly the same song has ended things every time. So it is that “Going Home (Local Hero)” brings us to a close, featuring Nigel Hitchcox playing its distinctive riff.
Mark Knopfler has achieved what you imagine exactly what he wanted to. He makes the music he wants to, does so under the radar in many senses and yet still manages to fill arenas up and down the country. It’s easy to see why, perhaps warmer and more accessible than Eric Clapton appeared last week, he was just as good as Slowhand, which, whatever way you look at is, is pretty high – but well deserved – praise.