Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mark Knopfler, Villa Manin, 08/06/08

If the great Mark Knopfler, who played in front of some 7,000 avid Dire Straits fans, appeared at the splendid setting of the historic Villa Manin (located about 20 kms from Udine), well, perhaps we owe it to a certain degree to his old chum, Paul McCartney. And what does Sir Paul have to do with Knopfler and Italy? Well, many, many moons ago Mark came with his old band, Dire Straits, for some concerts in the Bel Paese. He was apparently ripped off by some crooked promoters, and said: “Never again in Italy”! The man who instead convinced him to return? Paul McCartney. And ain’t we glad too!

The quasi 60 year-old Scottish musician from Glasgow, albeit with a slight paunch, looked in o.k. shape. I think it must have been over 10 years ago that I last saw Knopfler together with his old band at Rome’s old PalaEur. That was Dire Strait’s first-ever Italian appearance after the bad financial run-in the band had had years before in Italy.

Another great memory I have of Mark is the 1997 DVD he did together with McCartney for a benefit concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall for Sir George Martin and his recording studio on the island of Montserrat. The tiny island had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption and so in order to help his old and famous record producer, Paul called up some of his old musical mates, such as “Slow Hand” Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Sting, Elton John and Mr. “Blue Suede Shoes” himself, the late, great Carl Perkins (who would shortly later die of a heart attack after that very memorable concert. McCartney in particular had been one of Perkins’s greatest admirers). The grand finale of that epic concert was “Kansas City” (which had been played by The Beatles in that very same venue some 30 years before!) and saw on the very same stage: Knopfler, Sting (on bass), Clapton, Collins, Perkins, John and McCartney. The result is simply impressive as Paul stares in awe (and vice-versa) at Clapton as he plays one of his famous guitar solos! I’ve seen most of the people great musicians listed above (in fact all of them with the exception of Perkins), including two great other artists that Knopfler’s also worked with: his idol, Bob Dylan, and Tina “TNT” Turner (on her “Private Dancer” Album).

But on with the Villa Manin show. Mark was joined on stage by 6 other great musicians and opened the 2-hour concert with “Cannibals”, followed by “Why Aye Man”, “What It Is” and “Sailing To Philadelphia”. Some old Dire Straits songs were then pulled out of Knopfler’s magical hat, including everyone’s favourite, “Romeo And Juliet”, “Sultans Of Swing” and a great old ballad, “Brothers In Arms” (in 1985 it reached position no. 1 in the UK and US charts, as well as in 22 other countries!). Knopfler then ended with “So Far Away” (much to the immense joy of all those present) and “Local Hero”. A pity though that he didn’t play one of my all-time Dire Straits favs, “Walk Of Life” (if I’m not mistaken, the video of that song shows a few NBA matches), but one can’t “always get what one wants”, as Mick Jagger once sang a zillion years ago…(all pics by M. Rimati)

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