ufoIt’s that time of the week again when our resident classic rock blogger dusts down the denim and gives the leather a brush.

And this week Self Made Man can barely conceal his excitement as two fellow North East rockers prepare to lay waste to Newcastle Arena.

Read Self Made Man exclusively right here every week. 


Two concerts this week and two frontmen, both sons of the North East, who couldn’t possibly be any different.

On Wednesday, Whitesnake are co-headlining alongside Journey with the charismatic David Coverdale ready to woo another sell-out audience with his wit and repartee

Anyone who doubted the man’s ability to charm should have witnessed his five minutes on the BBC Breakfast Time couch in midweek when Bill Turnbull and the delectable Susannah Reid interviewed Saltburn-born Coverdale.

By the end of it, rock fan Turnbull gave the distinct impression he wanted to be DC  while his blushing female co-host showed signs of wanting to be with him.

Mark Knopfler, born in Glasgow but raised in Gosforth and a fanatical Newcastle fan, could probably sue me for describing him as “a frontman.”

He may be one of the greatest guitarists on the planet but when Knopfler plays to an audience, he does so in a laidback manner which suggests he’s treating fans to a concert in their own living room.

I’m writing this a few hours before heading down to Newcastle’s Metro Arena to see him for the second time in two years, wondering if his entrance will be any less dramatic than the last time.

He came on stage, sat uncomfortably on a stool and then apologised in advance for spending most of the time sitting because of a bad back.

Coverdale-esque, it certainly wasn’t but if Knopfler is not the most visually exciting rock star I’ve ever seen, the quality of his fretwork and that wonderfully understated voice of his, made that evening  one of the best gigs I’ve attended in recent years.

The first time Knopfler came to the our attention was when Sultans Of Swing climbed up the charts at a time when punk was threatening to take over the world.

His band Dire Straits went on to become one of the biggest on the planet, the ultimate substance over style group.

I remember a mate at school telling me that what he wore for that famous Sultans of Swing video on Top of the Pops was the exact same shirt he’d seen him wear upstairs in the Gosforth Hotel when he played for a local band Last Exit.

Dire Straits’ music may have had more in common with the progressive band which were fading into the background when they burst onto the scene but their image was more new wave. Perhaps that was their secret.

I once met Knopfler at Newcastle United’s training ground ahead of an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley  (which they lost!)

He was at Durham CCC’s Riverside ground, where Newcastle trained at the time, alongside his two young son to meet Bobby Robson and his players.

Not only was Knopfler one of the most approachable and friendly blokes I’ve ever had the privilege to meet, he took self-depreciation to new levels, telling star-struck journalists how envious he was of us and how he’d have loved a job like ours!

Fancy swapping bank accounts, Mark!!

Knopfler and his sons were there on the personal invitation of Robson but despite his status, the man insisted his sons wait their turn for autographs and so they queued with their fellow fans, most of whom didn’t recognise greatness in their midst.

A few years later, I attended a lunch held in Knopfler’s honour by the Royal Variety Club of Great Britain at Newcastle Civic Centre.

Among the guests was Alan Shearer, who it emerged was as big a fan of the guitarist’s work as Knopfler was of his footballing prowess.

The great and good of Tyneside society were present but as far as Knopfler was concerned, there was one particular guest who stood head and shoulders above everyone else in that Banqueting Suite.

“Today,” he said, “Is a special day.” And we all clapped politely, agreeing that being honoured by the Variety Club was indeed a notable date in Knopfler’s diary.

But that wasn’t why that May day was so special for the man in question.

“Today is my Mum’s birthday. She is 80-years-old and she is here in this room.”

And you sensed that the applause that echoed around that room for the next minute meant more to Mark Knopfler than anything he’d ever heard in concert halls across the world.

Ian Murtagh