July 17, 2008
Sultan of Swing
My neighbor Dee and I had an excellent adventure Wednesday night: we drove to Dayton, Ohio to see Mark Knopfler in concert. It was a sultry evening in the outdoor venue, but after Knopfler started, no one cared. What a consummate guitarist. He plays fingerstyle on an electric guitar, not using a pick. While he is famous for his red Stratocaster, he used four different guitars during the evening.
The concert was over two hours long, but it seemed half that. Listening to those pure notes come out of his guitar was transcendant. His rich baritone voice makes me melt. It wasn’t until the second half of the show when the lighting caught up with the quality of music being produced; then the staging really enhanced the experience. He alternated the energy level, ramping up to my favorite of the night, “Telegraph Road.” When my voice gave out, I resorted to loud whistles of approval. (The kid next to me said, "Show me how you do that.") Knopfler concluded the evening with “Going Home;” a version of that piece is "Wild Theme," featured on my playlist.
Knopfler helmed Dire Straits long ago, and he composed the music for several movies. I really enjoyed the quirky comedy "Local Hero." He agreed to write the music for "Princess Bride" with one codicil: the director Rob Reiner had to feature prominently in a scene the hat he wore in "This Is Spinal Tap." (Look for it when Grandpa is reading to his grandson.) Knopfler also has the distinction of having a dinosaur named for him. An article about that led me to his music.
Dee and I still had plenty of energy to burn off when the concert ended at 11:00, so we asked the hotel concierge to recommend a place nearby. We walked to the Dublin Pub where we heard Celtic Punk at a literally ear-ringing volume. The violinist in this group could start a fire with his bow. Whoa! I was easily twice the age of just about everybody there, but who cares? We had a great time and closed the place.
I envy these musicians their easy familiarity with their instruments, so much so that they seem to be a part of their bodies. As a student I played an instrument—violin, then cello—for nine years and never felt that much at ease.
I’m strictly right-brained when it comes to music. I cannot sight-read, and keys and time signatures mean nothing to me. But play it for me and hand me the sheet music, and I’ll play it right back. Music is a visceral experience for me, and as such reaches me like nothing else can. It isn’t just the memories associated—although I think that is the primary reason we love our “oldies”—but something inside us cannot be touched in any other way except through music.