Live review: Mark Knopfler @ the Buell Theatre - Reverb

Live review: Mark Knopfler @ the Buell Theatre

Mark Knopfler (far right) highlighted a more subdued style of his inimitable guitar picking at the Buell Theatre on Tuesday. Photo by Brian Carney.

Mark Knopfler (far right) highlighted a more subdued style of his inimitable guitar picking at the Buell Theatre on Tuesday. Photo by Brian Carney.

British guitar hero Mark Knopfler ambled through a staid but sparkling two-hour set Tuesday at Denver’s stately Buell Theatre. Backed by seven tactical all-stars — like Colorado’s own Tim O’Brien — and armed with a swirling rotation of flutes, penny whistles, mandolins, banjos, fiddles and bouzoukis, Knopfler displayed the soulful and haunting style that has earned him legions of fans. Despite that boisterous support following each tune, he’s a reserved fellow, seeming, at moments, unhappy to be on stage.

Touring in support of last fall’s “Get Lucky,” Knopfler appears to have abandoned anything Dire Straits, embracing instead a folksy, Scottish-Celtic sound that waxes poetic. While fitting for an epic film involving, say, verdant Middle Earth and gallant halflings, it is hardly rocking.

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

He plays with a gentle, finger-picking style that is particularly nuanced and utterly Knopfler. He whispers his songs, a hush that apparently challenged the Buell’s sound engineer, who struggled to elevate Knopfler’s murmuring.

Knopfler has professed to owning about 70 guitars and he used a good many of them Tuesday. It was hard to keep up with his ever-changing lineup of stratocasters, telecasters and Les Pauls. Flanked by O’Brien on fiddle, mandolin, banjo and Vibroverb and Richard Bennett on an equally dizzying collection of electric 12-strings, acoustics and more, Knopfler had plenty of room to explore.

From the Highlander-esque opener “Border Reiver” to an almost Delta-jammy “Hill’s Farmer Blues” and a jiggy “Donegan’s Gone,” Knopfler offered a world tour via six strings. The expected “Romeo and Juliet” — he’s playing a near identical setlist each night of the “Get Lucky” tour — included a nifty cam on Knopfler’s headstock, allowing an intimate glimpse of his uniquely tempered claw-hammer picking. The crowd-tickling “Sultans of Swing” that followed also delivered Knopfler ample room for syrupy carousing, thanks again to his exceptionally gifted band, which dropped from seven to a cozy four-top for both “Romeo” and “Sultans.”

The show’s slow idle inched to rev toward the end of the 18-song setlist, with O’Brien, Bennett and Knopfler digging up a tasty three-way duel in “Marbletown.” An almost fiery — alright, it was a mere flicker of flame on a glowing ember — “Telegraph Road” featured that same rim-job rap of “Romeo” that sadly blurs both tunes together. Yet “Telegraph” marked the show’s high-point, with four guitarists rolling in admirable collaboration.

The anticipated encore “Brothers in Arms” revealed Knopfler’s most nostalgic and melodic tune, stirring many in the Buell to actually move with the tender tune. But it was a rambling “So Far Away” and “Piper to the End” that culled some dancing.

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

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Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.

Brian Carney is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.

  • kevinmccarney

    I was among those in attendance on Tuesday. I was also disappointed with the sound system at the Buell.However, having followed Knopfler for most of his career, I do have to take exception with some of the reviewers comments.While I love the Dire Straits music Knopfler created, he now has 6 solo albums plus movie soundtracks compilations, and other efforts (duets and such) from which to draw his material. This means the likelyhood of having a concert dominated by Dire Straits songs slim.The solo Knopfler does tend to be mellower, but the show opened with mostly high tempo songs, Border Reiver, Why Aye Man, and What It Is before lowering the music level. Again, if the reviewer was more familiar with Knopfler, he could see the Celtic and Bluegrass backgrounds all the way back to the First Dire Straits efforts. Knowing that Mark was inspired by Chet Atkins might also give a clue to the style of music.I loved the more mellow version of Telegraph Road (a song he plays almost every tour). Romeo and Juliet is probably the most romantic ballad he has written, but unless you are a hard core Straits or Knopfler fan, you might not have ever heard it. Sultans of Swing was performed as it was originally written, the version that first attracted me to Knopfler 33 years ago.Highlights from the solo songs this set around were “Prairie Wedding”, “Speedway At Nazareth”, and “Cleaning My Gun”. While I do wish Knopfler would mix up his Dire Straits songs, say replace “Telegraph Road” with “Tunnel of Love”, and “So Far Away” with “Planet of New Orleans” it is his choice to play what he wishes.Finally, when he finished “So Far Away” Tuesday night, I turned to my wife and told her exactly what song would be the last of the Evening. “Piper Til The End” may be the most touching song in all of Knopfler's song book, and I can see it becoming a standard for the end of his concerts, much the way the “Theme From The Local Hero” was the traditional ending to Dire Straits concerts

  • williestargell

    Thanks for the review…..few papers have opted to cover this magical show!! Great photos as well!!