Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan 10th October 2011
Walking towards the MEN Arena on a cold, wet Monday evening, it was becoming more and more apparent that we were going to be, at best, half the average age of the audience for this event, showcasing two of the world’s most influential and respected songwriters. But, with their combined age of 132, was this really a surprise?
Having seen Mark Knopfler at this very venue a few years ago, I knew better than to expect an out-of-your-seat singalong affair. Mark Knopfler doesn’t do Greatest Hits tours. In fact, he has gone on record as saying he didn’t like all the fame and fortune associated with the material he’s most famous for, hits like Money For Nothing and Walk Of Life. So instead we sat back with a pint and prepared to watch in awe as ‘The Knopf’ and his band (numbering seven ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalists) gave a lesson in musical excellence. The fact that it was 4 songs into his “support act” set before I actually recognised a tune speaks volumes about just how good this bunch of balding, middle-aged musicians are. We were dumbstruck as they continued to switch between instruments (some of which we had never even seen before!) and played songs that can only be described as epic! Upon telling us that he was out of time, and that the “main man” would be waiting, they struck up the opening chords to Brothers In Arms, sending a collective chill down the spine of everyone in the Arena. To finish proceedings on a high he then plucked his way into So Far Away. And that was that, Mark Knopfler, brilliant as ever.
And so on to Bob Dylan. Brought on to stage by an over excitable announcer, sounding somewhat like he was introducing a heavyweight prize fighter, with a very brief account of Mr Dylan’s life, including a cheeky reference to him spending the majority of the 70’s and 80’s in a narcotic haze, and finishing with “The Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!” out onto the stage burst Bob Dylan and his band. Dressed in his trademark wide brimmed hat and bootlace tie he took up position behind the organ, shaking his hips and thrashing the keys in a fashion that defied his 70 years. That unmistakable rasping voice, even more growly than ever, barking his way through Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right and Things Have Changed. The up-tempo set kept even the most ancient of fans on their feet! The lady sat next to me must have been mid to late 60’s and she was there with her mother (true story)! Barely using his guitar, Dylan instead chose to captivate from behind the keys and occasionally standing centre stage with the microphone, intermittently blasting out incredible harmonica solos. What a performance! But then he’s probably had more practice than most! Running through more hits, like Tangled Up In Blue, Simple Twist Of Fate and a rousing version of Thunder On The Mountain, we were hooked. In what felt like 5 minutes, Bob Dylan and his (amazing) band had zipped through twelve songs and they were gone. The baying crowd, most way past their bedtime, whistled, clapped, whooped and cried out for more. And we weren’t disappointed. Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower capped off an impressive display from a man well into his 71st year.
And so I can cross off another name from the list of ageing rock stars I need to see before I die. Or, indeed, before they do.