If ever the remaining eight members of Mark Knopfler’s band decide to tour without the main man, count me in. I want to be there.
For while the sell-out crowd at the Metro Arena turned up to pay homage to arguably the finest guitarist the region has ever produced, the night was so much more than a one-man show.
It was a musical glorification, a collective demonstration of virtuosity.
Of course, Knopfler was the star and had he toured with just one guitar and mic, the man would still have sold out arenas around the world.
But for all his talent, the Gosforth-bred singer-songwriter is no egocentrist – which is just as well considering he’s surrounded by a backing band of multi-instrumentalists as technically gifted as Knopfler himself.
Mike McGoldrick stole the show on Irish pipes, dueting with Knoplfer on the beautiful Father And Son from the 1984 film Cal – for which MK wrote the music.
And then there was violinist John McCusker and Glenn Worf on double bass indulging in some mesmerising interplay during a wonderfully drawn out Marbletown.
Both very much appreciated by the sell-out crowd but of course, it was Knopfler himself who drew the loudest applause, particularly after Dire Straits’ epics Romeo And Juliet and Telegraph Road and, inevitably, the final encore Local Hero.
But the setlist was testimony to his rich back catalogue. No Sultains Of Swing, no Brothers In Arms. No complaints.
Instead, we were treated to five tracks from his latest solo release, Privateering, the first double album of his distinguished career and proof, if ever it was needed, that his songwriting ability remain as fertile today as during his Straits days.
Knopfler varies the setlist every night and three songs from my personal favourite of his albums – Shangri-La – were surprise inclusions.
Indeed, Back To Tupelo was arguably the standout moment of a memorable night with haunting guitar-playing capturing Knopfler at his majestic best.
A minor quibble. While the setlist was varied and wonderfully reflected his own eclectic mix of blues, folk, country and rock, it’s mystifying that Hill Farmer’s Blues and Speedway At Nazareth remain from the Get Lucky tour three years ago.
Both are fine songs but neither are particular crowd favourites. Better known songs were culled for this tour.
Knopfler should be applauded his desire to showcase so many tracks from Privateering and admired for never living in the past but if certain songs are to stay on setlists over successive tours, let them be the classics.