On a pleasant Southern California Tuesday afternoon I was on the bus going home after physical therapy when I checked my emails and saw I had one from the Wiltern Theater. Seems they remembered I saw a Mark Knopfler concert there and figured I might like to see Dire Straits Legacy the following night, a band made up mostly of guys from the original group but with a different lead, as Mark was into his solo career and didn’t want to do the old stuff anymore. The real surprise was they were offering me a free ticket, which as I found out from talking after the show was not unusual. More on that later, though.
Of course I had nothing else to do on a Wednesday night—who does, right? Shut up—and the Wiltern is the easiest theater to get to, being across the street from a subway stop, so why not?
And indeed the next night, after the customary stop for a bean and cheese burrito at Juanita’s, followed by Miss Kitty’s soft serve, I made my way into the theater, early as always. I was surprised to find they sold Powerade at the venue, though not shocked that it was five bucks for a tiny bottle. Remembering what had happened with the exploding Sprite bottle at the Lindsey Stirling show, I took it with only a small grumble at the ridiculous price.
A bigger grumble came from my seat, which was a high chair, the kind you get in the bar section of a restaurant, that makes you feel like a little kid. Hoping my back wouldn’t hurt after, or during, I swallowed it up by remembering I got in here free.
Okay, time to take in the stage. On the left side I saw two keyboard stations, one behind the other on a platform, then what looked to be a holding pen for brass, mostly saxes. The drums of course were middle back, and there was a percussion setup on the right side of the rear. The middle and right front had guitar stands. The only thing that really stood out was the chimes in the percussion kit, with congas in the center. And it didn’t look like there was a screen at the rear, so there wouldn’t be any videos to distract me.
Rather than 8PM, the flickering of lights didn’t happen till about 8:20. But finally it was music time.
1. Private Investigations
Can’t believe it took me so long to suss out which song this was, as it’s one of my faves. On the other hand, I’m not sure how faithful that intro was to the original. Anyhoo, one of the finest examples of music noir, played flawlessly.
2. Walk of Life
Boy, that’s a loud mix, and this is the song to show it. You may not recognize the name, but I’m sure you’ve heard this, as it’s one of the most upbeat songs ever. Recently heard it on a commercial for some pill. Not one of my faves, but no surprise to hear it here.
3. Set Me Up?
Not sure I got the title right, but it doesn’t matter because this one wasn’t familiar at all. (Research shows a song called Setting Me Up from the first album, but if you came to read this you probably already know that.)
4. Down to the Waterline
At least I know this one, even if it’s not one of my faves. This shows perfectly that, like Rush, Dire Straits songs were meant to be played live more than as a studio offering.
5. Tunnel of Love
In five songs, the guy taking Mark’s place has made guitar changes between each one.
This is one of my faves, but the intro was weird—before the waltz started—and the outro was lacking. Hyped myself up too much waiting for the piano roll. . . but with all that, still amazing to hear it live. Back in college I took a screenwriting class, and one assignment was to make a music video script, and this is the song I chose. I still have all the visuals in my head, and they played like a movie as I watched the guys on stage. . .
6. Romeo + Juliet
As always, I’m proud of myself for nailing the two finger snaps. The soprano sax outro was new. This was one of the few oldies Mark played at his concert, but that was so long ago—even if it was in the same venue—I can’t remember enough to compare. Let’s just say it’s as heartbreaking as always.
7. Sultans of Swing
The original, the one that put Dire Straits on the map. This front guy is trying very hard to be Mark, but he just wasn’t there on this one. But what he lacks in guitar chops—he’s still excellent, but can’t touch the master—he makes up in stage presence, as Mark isn’t the most demonstrative on stage. All to say that this was pretty enjoyable to watch and hear, especially the soft piano outro into the full blast finish.
8. Your Favorite Trick
Knew it as soon as the sax came out, but the conga intro fooled me. As soulful as Dire Straits ever got, and one of their most underrated songs. I even used the line about the garbage trucks in a short story years ago.
9. Jesus Trick?
The guys are apparently debuting their own song. Ideal time for a restroom break.
10. Another original
Back for this, but all I can think of is how these chairs are killing, not my back, but my knees.
11. The Bug
It still amuses me that people think this song has always been country. Nope, I enjoy saying, it’s a Dire Straits original. Not one I listen to, though. (Guess that makes me the windshield. . . never mind.)
12. On Every Street
This is the heaviest slow song ever. Like the previous, it’s from the one album Dire Straits made after their massive Brothers in Arms, which couldn’t help but be a letdown both commercially and musically, but I suppose this is one of the best cuts from it. In this particular iteration there was an awesome soprano sax outro, the entire band going faster and faster until there was nowhere left to go and mercifully ended.
13. Telegraph Road
Always wanted to hear all fourteen minutes of this live, and it did not disappoint. If I had to name one highlight, this is it.
14. Brothers in Arms
Name that tune in one note. I love this song, and it’s a natural closer, though the frontman didn’t come close to matching the soul in Mark’s voice. The brass guy was impressive, playing four instruments: alto sax, tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute.
15. Money for Nothing
They leave for a while, then come back acting like our cheers had convinced them. As always I’m amused by people in the crowd who leave at this point, not knowing better. As far as this iconic song goes, no one attempted to be Sting, but then the famous hook is enough.
16. Owner of a Lonely Heart
The bass player, who’s apparently famous, wrote this song that did sound somewhat familiar. He’s singing it, starting by saying they were courting disaster by doing this live. And of course they screw up right away. I found it amusing to see a drumstick used on a tambourine.
17. So Far Away
A thoroughly underrated song, glad they played it, though I would have thought such a slow piece would go in the middle.
18. Portobello Belle
They couldn’t leave without paying tribute to that Irish lass with the poisonous name. Of all the songs I sung along to, I sung this one the loudest.
Yes, eighteen songs—four of them as encore—in two and a half hours, no intermission. Once it was well and truly done I fullbacked my way through the exiting crowd—I was one of the youngest, though that’s not saying much—got out on the street, crossed it, took the photo you see above, and dropped into the subway. While waiting for it to take off I spoke to an older couple and found out they’d also received free tickets. Huh.
So yeah, that was fun. I know I didn’t convey how much enjoyment I had, but I’d definitely do it again. . .