@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, May 22 2010

Picture the scene. The auditorium is plunged into darkness, the crowd breaks into applause and then the spotlights shine on two musicians – a flautist and a fiddler.

Meanwhile, the star of the show shyly waves to his hometown audience before sitting down in his seat at the front of the stage.

Not the typical entrance for a guitar hero but, then again, Mark Knopfler is not your typical axeman.

And anyone turning up at Newcastle Arena wanting scorching solos, ear-splitting sonics, jaw-dropping stage effects and wild excitement would have headed home disappointed.

But if Knopfler’s low on energy, he’s high on quality and Saturday night underlined that few guitarists play their instrument quite so sensually as the Glasgow-born, Newcastle-raised former Dire Straits frontman.

There’s a sparse beauty to a Knopfler concert, a restrained calm to his work and here the man was at his most stately sedate.

A trapped nerve in his back was the reason for sitting throughout and when he did attempt to stand 90 minutes into his set, the pain etched on his face betrayed his ailment.

But Knopfler is not Angus Young and the fact he was seated hardly compromised his playing even if there were one or two unfulfilled souls at the end who felt, somewhat harshly, they were deprived of seeing the real MK in all his glory.

As someone who enjoys his solo stuff as much as his Dire Straits material, I would have been quite happy to witness a gig with no material from his former band yet still those songs continue to provide the highlights of a Knopfler show.

Romeo and Juliet, Sultans of Swing and Telegraph Road sound as enchanting today as they did two decades ago while Brothers In Arms – the first of four encores – remains as much a `hairs on the back of the neck’ experience today as it ever did.

The concert was bookended by Border Reiver and Piper To the End from the folksy Get Lucky, surprisingly the only two songs from his most recently released album.

Indeed, the vast majority of solo stuff played was from Sailing To Philadelphia and even more so, A Ragpickers Dream with Why Aye Man, replacing What It Is from the previous night’s Glasgow setlist.

But if that was included as a tribute to his Tyneside roots, Knopfler doesn’t do Geordie knees ups and his mention of Newcastle’s recent promotion ahead of a truly stunning Local Hero, was almost apologetic in delivery. Certainly, the bloke in the sell-out crowd shouting Alan Shearer’s name during it, sounded as out of place as a Sunderland fan singing Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants.

A Knopfler gig isn’t just about marvelling at his music, technical prowess and silkily unique tones but the multi-instumental prowess of the accompanying seven musicians.

Bassist Glenn Wore, flautist Michael McGoldrick and fiddler John McCusker were all handed opportunities to shine individually and proved as adept in their crafts as Knopfler himself.

If at times, these eight middle-aged men were prone to collective indulgence, they could be forgiven for there were moments during the evening when you felt as if you had just stepped in to a pub in rural Ireland, gatecrashing a group of friends playing along.

And you couldn’t pay MK and his band a better compliment than that.

Ian Murtagh