Mark Knopfler proved he was not too old to rock n' roll, as many old-school Dire Straits fans gathered at the Paramount to catch the former lead guitarist and vocalist of one of the most important bands of the 1980s. Knopfler has also had an illustrious solo career over the last ten years since releasing the highly acclaimed Sailing To Philadelphia, which featured high-profile artists such as Van Morrison and James Taylor. Knopfler is certainly of the same caliber talent as those two musicians, but is widely underrated by many critics and is not as well known in the music world. Knopfler’s Oakland show was one of the first stops on his Get Lucky Tour supporting his newest album of the same title. The song “Get Lucky,” is also a new single with a softer Knopfler touch to it, featuring the line, “You might get lucky now and then, you win some.”
Inside the Paramount many middle-aged couples strolled the vast corridors that lead into the auditorium facing the Orchestra section. Many of the men had on their brown leather jackets and some of the women, like the girl sitting next to me, seemed twenty years younger than her boyfriend (who was turning her on to Knopfler for the first time).
When Knopfler hit the stage the entire crowd started cheering. Some guys near the front even bowed down multiple times as if they were in the company of true royalty. Many of the songs in the earlier part of the set were from either Get Lucky, or Sailing To Philadelphia. The highlight of those songs was “What It Is,” a true gritty song that Knopfler wrote as the leadoff track to Sailing To Philadelphia. “What It Is” sounds like it should be blasted out of a jukebox anytime you are in a downtown bar in London or any part of Ireland, with tough English-bloke lyrics, “The drinking dens are spilling out, there's staggering in the square. There's lads and lasses falling about and a crackling in the air. Down around the dungeon doors the shelters and the queues. Everybody's looking for somebody's arms to fall into, that's what it is. It's what it is now.” The lyrics strike a similar note to the biggest Dire Straits hit of all “Sulatains Of Swing,” with that true London pub-grit of rock n’ roll in the sound.
Knopfler let out a brilliant solo before he sent more haunting and alluringly breathtaking lyrics trickling down my spine, “High up on the parapet a Scottish piper stands alone. And high on the wind, the highland drums begin to roll, and something from the past just comes and stares into my soul.”
Knopfler’s version of “Sailing to Philadelphia” lacked something without James Taylor’s vocal parts, which were filled in by banjo player Tim O’ Brien; but since it is one of his best solo songs it was a joy nonetheless to see him play it. “Remembrance Day,” struck a sentimental chord and was a very beautiful song from the Get Lucky album, with the lines, “We will remember them.” “Hill Farmer’s Blues" was a heavier and more upbeat song by Knopfler, which featured heavy guitar soloing and the line, “I'm going into tow law for what I need. Chain for the ripsaw, killer of the weed. The dog’s at the back door, leave him be. Don’t feed him jack, and don’t wait up for me.”
“Romeo and Juliet," the quiet love ballad from Dire Straits Making Movies album, was the first song of the night from Knopfler’s vault of his hugely successful former band, and it came somewhat in the middle of the first set. He followed that with the biggest song in the history of Dire Straits off the first album the band ever released, "Sultans of Swing." Knopfler sputtered out the familiar lyrics, which many Dire Straits fans in the crowd sang along to, “You get a shiver in the dark, it’s been raining in the park but meantime. South of the river you stop and you hold everything. A band is blowing Dixie double four time. You feel all right when you hear that music ring. You step inside but you don't see too many faces. Coming in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down. Competition in all the places. All but the horns keep blowing that sound. Way on down south, way on down south London town.” The crowd would not stop cheering for over three minutes after the song was over and everyone was on their feet, some people were again bowing down to Knopfler, proving he is truly rock-god status!
The final part of the set saw Knopfler playing a stellar version of “Speedway of Nazerath,” chanting “After two thousand came two thousand and one. To be the new champions we were there for two run. From Springtime in Arizona til’ the Fall in Monterey. And the raceways were battlefields and we fought them all the way.” Knopfler also played one more classic cut from Sailing to Philadelphia, “Silvertown Blues,” playing with an actual silver guitar and pointing it off the bright golden yellow stage lights so that beautiful silver beams shone all over the crowd at the Paramount. To close out the set Knopfler played a long Dire Straits song that pleased many California folk, "Telegraph Road,” from the Love Over Gold, album that was also one of their best recordings. The lyrics are some of the best Knopfler has ever written and he sang them with such emotion and clarity that you knew he meant every word, “You know I’d soon you had your head on my shoulder, you had your hand in my hair. Now you act a little colder, like you don’t seem to care. But believe in me baby and I’ll take you away from out of this darkness and into the day. From these rivers of headlights these rivers of rain. From the anger that lives on the streets with these names 'cos I've run every red light on memory lane. I've seen desperation explode into flames and I don't want to see it again. From all of these signs saying sorry but we're closed all the way down the telegraph road.” Knopfler then went onto play a killer, four-minute-plus solo, as “Telegraph Road,” proved to be the long epic song of the night, clocking in well over twelve minutes.
After a short break Mark Knopfler returned to the stage with his band strumming the smooth magical chords of "So Far Away," which is the leadoff track on Dire Straits classic Brothers In Arms album. The background of the stage had a TV screen showing a blue horizon with clouds mimicking the Brothers In Arms cover, and putting you right into that stoner-rock mood as Knopfler chanted in a spacey deep voice, “I’m tired of being in love and being all alone when you’re so far away from me. I’m tired of making out on the telephone when you’re so far away from me. You’re so far away from me, you’re so far I just can’t see.” After the song was over Knopfler played the title track “Brothers In Arms,” another song you can bet the hardcore Dire Straits fans had been waiting for all night. Knopfler put the entire crowd in a mystical trance as he sang, “These mist covered mountains are a home now to me. But my home is the lowlands and it always will be. Some day you’ll return to your valleys and your farms and you’ll no longer burn to be brothers in arms.” More breathtaking lyrics followed at the end of the song that sent shivers down the base of my neck and spine, “Now the sun's gone to hell. And the moon's riding high. Let me bid you farewell. Every man has to die. But it's written in the starlight, and every line on your palm, we're fools to make war on our brothers in arms.” Hearing this song only whet the audience’s appetite for more material, and after the song was over chants came catapulting down to the stage for songs like "Lady Writer" and "The Last Laugh." Knopfler ignored these requests and played one last solo song, “Piper To The End,” staying true to his English/Scotch-Irish roots and singing the line, “If they don’t have Piper’s in heaven, I’ll have to go below.” The crowd was applauding thunderously as Knopfler strummed his final chords and waved graciously to the crowd he had just blown away with such an incendiary live show. As the last chords were played by his backing band, Knopfler hoisted his red electric guitar well above his head with his back to the audience and his face towards the drummer; he appeared for a moment to be the full mythic figure in the rock n’ roll legends that he is.