The music of Dire Straits live on stage
“You get a shiver in the dark…”
2017 sees the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the evocative opening line of Sultans Of Swing first heard being broadcast around the world. In the process, it introduced us to a magnificent guitar player and songwriter in Mark Knopfler, and to what has become a musical universe unto itself: the music of Dire Straits.
25 years have passed since Dire Straits disbanded, leaving a catalogue of some of the finest compositions and musical performances that the heyday of rock ever produced. If anything, their reputation has only grown with time. Record sales of more than one hundred and twenty million albums continue to increase as new young fans discover the music and join the band’s massive worldwide following.
It was against the backdrop of this two-decade break – and an increasing demand to hear one of the most dramatic songbooks in rock history played live again – that members of Dire Straits, Alan Clark, Chris White and Phil Palmer formed The Straits for a charity show at The Royal Albert Hall in 2011. With the prolific Knopfler enjoying an incredibly successful solo career, Alan Clark called upon the singer songwriter, Terence Reis to front the band in his absence. By the time The Straits ended, three and a half years later, the band had played more than 150 shows in 25 countries around the world.
An invitation to play a series of shows in New Zealand and Australia has seen Chris White and Terence Reis collaborating again for The Dire Straits Experience. Joining them is a stellar band of some of the finest professional musicians the UK has to offer. Between them they have worked with an enviable list of rock royalty that includes, amongst others, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Elton John, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Sheryl Crow.
Chris White, who worked with Mark Knopfler from the early ‘80s on film scores, joined Dire Straits for their record breaking Brothers In Arms world tour in 1985. This included their performance at Live Aid and, later, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday concert in 1988. He went on to play on the final Dire Straits album, On Every Street, and was again part of the two-year world tour that produced the live On The Night album and DVD. Having experienced the audience response to a live Dire Straits show at the height of the band’s popularity, he speaks fondly of the fans today.
“I have been truly amazed and, frankly, humbled by the response we have had from the fans on hearing these songs again. Dire Straits have the most amazingly loyal fan base. It has been so great to reconnect with people I last saw in 1992 and see them still getting so much from this music. Also, it is fantastic to make new friends among the many young people who are now discovering Mark and Dire Straits. So many people still want to experience this live.”
And of the years playing along side Mark Knopfler? Chris appreciates that it was always going to be an almost impossible task to bring any sense of authenticity to these extraordinary pieces of music without Mark Knopfler.
“When I was first approached to put together a band to play the Dire Straits songs at the Albert Hall, I didn’t believe it would be possible to find someone who would be able to stand in Mark’s shoes without sounding like an imposter. I was wrong.
In Terence Reis, I think we may have found the only person on the planet that is able to play and sing like Mark, but maintain his own integrity and identity. I think this is the very essence of why the fans have been so accepting of what we do. They believe in Terence as his own man. They know he is not trying to be Mark. Because of his respect for Mark, Terence is able to perform these songs in a very honest way that allows his energy and talent to come through. This is exactly what allows the performances to feel alive and fresh. Not slavish copies of a bygone time. Without Terence, this would simply not work.”
And so it is that these songs, in all their ambition, grandeur and aching beauty, are once again presented live... for the fans that that have kept them alive.