And this week there’s no escaping two of rock’s greats as Knopfler and Coverdale spark a fresh debate.
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Who would have thought that Mark Knopfler could stage a concert without performing either Sultans Of Swing or Brothers In Arms, arguably his two most famous songs?
Or that of the numerous gig reviews I’ve read of Whitesnake’s barnstorming current tour, not one has mentioned the omission of Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City from the setlist?
This week I’m heading to Glasgow for to see Rush on their Clockwork Angels tour when over 60 minutes of their three hour set will be taken up by tracks from their latest, hugely successful album.
Fans upset that they did not play 2112 on their last UK tour, fear not. It’s there as are trusty favourites Tom Sawyer and Spirit of Radio which have been included on every tour since 1981.
But who could have predicted Territories and Grand Designs from 1985’s Power Windows album would be included?
Rush, perhaps more than any other rock band, are leftfield when it comes to compiling a set list. Two years ago, they gave Circumstances from Hemispheres an airing for the first time in two decades and on their previous tour, Entre Nous, one of the less heralded tracks on Permanent Waves was dusted down and restored to the live set.
Whitesnake’s set list was a superbly balanced affair, including four songs from their latest two albums and three from their early years. Gambler from Slide It In was also re-introduced as a tribute to Mel Galley, Jon Lord and Cozy Powell, all of whom played on that album but have since passed away. A nice touch.
And naturally, the core of the set was taken from Whitesnake’s most successful album 1987.
David Coverdale got it just about right with his pick while co-headliners Journey played it safe, essentially performing a greatest hits concert, well aware that on a bill where they only shared centre stage, not everyone in the audience was a diehard fan.
Knopfler,is a law unto himself when choosing which songs he plays and the setlist tends to change on a nightly basis – a welcome decision for those who follow him up and down the country.
Like Rush, he is not afraid to showcase his latest work, nor is he a slave to his Dire Straits’ legacy, restricting himself to just three songs from his days with that band.
How do rock band with such vast back catalogues choose the music they play on tour?
Clearly, there is no hard and fast rule. In the past, I’ve criticised UFO for relying too much on material from their Strangers In The Night live album.
On their last two tours, they have been less conservative, even playing songs from the forgotten Paul Chapman era but it’s still tracks from SITN which get the loudest cheers from their audience.
The Scorpions once conducted a poll on their official website asking fans to vote for the songs they wanted on the setlist.
Did democracy work? Well, yes and no. There were some interesting selections such as We’ll Burn The Sky and In Trance from their very early days but tracks from their latest albums did not poll so well and so the band, wanting to publicise new material, decided to use results as a guide rather than a mandate.
Personally, I quite like the trend of some bands to incorporate one of their most famous albums into a set.
Rush did it with Moving Pictures on their 2011 tour and it proved an overwhelming success and The Who, in Newcastle next month, have been selling out arenas around the world with their Quadrophenia tour.
The late Ronnie James Dio (who died three years ago this month) played Holy Diver in its entirety on the last-ever tour of the band Dio before he linked up with his former Black Sabbath colleagues again.
And while his voice is not what it once was, Meatloaf drew wide praise on his recent tour, when he played the original Bat Out of Hell.
I was lucky enough to see Deep Purple in 2005 on what was advertised as their second Machine Head tour.
They kicked off in Newcastle and the second half of the show featured their best-selling album with the running order exactly how it was on record.
Yet the following night, Ian Gillan and co decided to drop the experiment, claiming the segueing hadn’t quite worked on that first night despite meeting the emphatic approval of yours truly.
There are some bands who I think should go for this “album” format on tour. AC/DC and Back In Black would be an obvious choice so too Aerosmith with either Rocks or Toys In The Attic.
Or how about Paul Rodgers and Bad Company hitting the road again to play Straight Shooter or Michael Schenker’s excellent band giving his first-ever solo album an airing?
I’d like to see Knopfler go back to the future on his next tour and play Love Over Gold but concede that will never happen.
Neil Young too is far too unpredictable to stick to such a structured format. I’m counting down the days until I see him live but don’t have a clue what he’ll deliver.
After all, this is a man, with arguably the biggest back catalogue of any artist on the planet, who on his last tour played Burned from his Buffalo Springfield days in the 60s and encored with a cover, The Beatles’ A Day In The Life.
Now there’s a thought, a setlist of covers? Who fancies kicking off a trend?