Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Knopfler and gang returned to the Washington, D.C. area almost one year to the
day from their last visit! It was 26 June 2005 when the SHANGRI-LA Tour rolled into Vienna, Virginia and gave myself, my wife and thousands of other dedicated fans the time of
our lives. Most bands/artists take a few years off between albums and Tours, and no one would have faulted Mark if he decided to do the same. Yet there we
were-one year later-back at it again. A new album-a fantastic one, if I do say
so myself-and another Tour. If Guy Fletcher's Tour Diary is any indication,
this Tour; and indeed this night's show; looked to be better than last year.
The band had really hit their stride now.
The day of the show I was suffering a dreadful head cold. I mention that
simply to say this: I was determined not to let that recent setback deter
me from enjoying one moment of what promised to be another stellar performance
from Mark and crew! (At least I wouldn't have to worry about ear plugs... my
ears were completely clogged!) The day was also significant because it
was the twentieth anniversary of my Mother's death. She died on 21 June
1986 from Cancer. She was only forty-two. I was fourteen at the
time. So it was clear that this night would be a meaningful one for
After arriving in downtown D.C., we dined at a local Bertucci's with
friends. The walk to Constitution Hall was just lovely-perfect
weather-and we were reminded of the previous year's fantastic day at Wolftrap.
We arrived at the venue, stood in a mass of confusion as fans from all over the
world attempted to figure out which line led inside (they all did) and which
line was for Will Call (none were). In we sulked like cattle, squeezing through
the portal and into the most intimate hall one could wish to experience a
concert in. My camera was discreetly hidden in my shorts pocket, but I soon saw
that no secrecy was necessary. The ticket checker at the door barely looked at
me as I slid past. Quick bathroom break and into the seating area we flowed.
My first realization was that what I thought were seats in the 18th Row (Row R)
were actually seats in the 13th Row... because the seating started at Row F! We
had moved up five rows without doing anything!
As we took our seats, I suddenly realized that there was someone talking to me.
(Remember, my ears... snot... you know). I turned to my left to see a gentlemen
standing there with his hand outstretched. I shook it, and as he spoke, his
words were so kind, so thoughtful... He said: "I recognize you from the
Boards." (I was a member of the MKNews Forum at the time, and a frequent
poster. I was also wearing a T-shirt with my Forum screen name printed on
the back.) He spoke with a French accent, but I understood every word so
clearly. Through my hazy ears, I heard this man. We chatted for a minute or
two, and then it seemed that he was turning to leave... but he stopped. He
turned back to me and spoke words to me that I swear to God nearly made me
weep. He said: "I love your story." I was dumbfounded-but just
briefly. I suddenly realized by looking into this man's eyes what he was
saying. He was (I hope) referring to the posts I had made regarding my Mother
and her passing at such a young age, both for her and for me. As I looked into
this man's eyes, and saw the compassion, the understanding, I just wanted to
hug him. I know that sounds so bizarre, but right there on the floor of DAR
Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., I wanted to embrace this fine man-who
was so worried about how he spoke and whether I understood him or not-and tell
him Thank You. Thank you for understanding... and for saying so. You know
folks, a LOT of
people might feel like they want to say something to someone that they don't
know, but this fine man did it. He saw my name emblazoned on the back of my
shirt, thought to himself: "I know this fellow and I really want to talk
to him", got up out of his seat, approached me and bared his soul. God Bless
you fine sir. You know who you are. I dare say that our few minutes together
were the best part of the evening.
Now... the show.
My God what a show! The staging was beautiful! The intertwined ring of lights
hanging low over the stage front struck me as so perfect-such a symbol of two
lives intertwining, just like on the album. It reminded me of wedding bands,
high in the sky. I snapped a few "pre-show" pics just before the
lights went dim and into RIGHT NOW
we went! From the very first note, the band was in top form. Mark looked so
strong and massive so close up... wearing a black button down shirt, open
almost to the chest, and dark jeans. Emmylou looked breathtaking and very in
control behind her guitar and mic. Having never seen Emmylou live before, I was
struck by how tall she is. It appeared from where I was sitting that the two of
them were well matched.
The highlights of the show for me were numerous. I will not dwell on set lists
or name every song, but I will comment on the ones that rocked me out of my seat.
During SONG FOR SONNY LISTON,
Mark performed a solo in the middle of the song that got softer and softer with
each note. It got so quiet inside the hall that I swear I could hear Mark's
fingers sliding across the strings as if without amplification. And this
despite my bad hearing! By the end of the solo, the crowd was ROARING its applause! This was by
far the BEST live
version of LISTON
I have heard to date. Just brilliant! (A quick side note - as Mark began
strumming the opening chords to LISTON, I got so excited to be hearing this song live again
that I couldn't help but scream out: "You're the MAN Mark!" This drew
a few cheers of agreement from the crowd, and a chuckle from my Wife).
THIS IS US had me in
tears as I thought of how my two year old daughter constantly requests this
song at home. "I want to hear THIS IS US" is all we ever hear from her nowadays! It was even
better than the album version. The piano "outro" performed by Matt
Rollings was extended a bit, and it was so touching to see Mark watching his
young piano player enjoying himself. It was as if the band did not want the
song to end. I know we didn't.
And of course there was SPEEDAWY AT NAZARETH. Having Emmylou singing the female portion of this
duet was a perfect choice. In fact, many of our group agreed after the show
that she makes a nice addition to the band. The band has had such a male
influence for so long, that having Emmy on stage is a breath of fresh air. As
for the instrumental end of the song, if there is a God in Heaven, then even He
heard the thunder of this song as it ripped through the venue. President Bush
himself must have thought we were under attack based on the force that was
screaming from the band during the performance of this never better song. There
was such raw power, such explosive energy coming from the musicians on stage
that at one point, I swear you could see paint melting off the walls of DAR
Constitution Hall. And they (meaning the band) simply loved it! Each one
smiling, each one jamming, each one letting it all go in the name of that
magical music we all crave. By songs end, there was not one single person in
the entire area of downtown Washington, D.C. that was not on their feet.
I must confess that during the entire concert I was in a panic. You see, for
months now I had been planning on when I would make my presence known to the
band, the fans, the world. Just as I did during TELEGRAPH ROAD in 2001 and last year, I wanted a
quiet moment during the concert where I could let out a holler that would hit
that stage with full force. (I know some may not agree with this type of
action, and personally, I don't want to hear from you about it. I did what I
did and I am not alone in shouting my approval for a well received show). I had
my spot picked months ago. But as the night came nearer and nearer to it's end,
I was worried about my voice giving out. Too much screaming, too much illness.
I couldn't stop my mind from telling me it would not happen. IF THIS IS GOODBYE was the song I had
picked, and as it started, my panic suddenly vanished. I would make it happen-I
must! And so it was that just following the verse: "There is our love... I
know there is our love..." as the hall fell silent and Mark and Emmylou
paused for just a moment-each gazing at the other-everyone inside the hall
heard me scream "We love you Mark!" And I swear I heard a woman's
voice from behind me screaming "YES!" right after I said it.
But the most amazing moments that occurred throughout the show happened when Mark's
spotlight would reflect off of his guitar. Something spectacular would happen
each time the light was beamed directly at Mark... it would bounce off of the
guitar-and not just that famous National Steel guitar, but all of them-and it
would generate this huge shaft of light that was reflected back over our heads.
It reminded me of a scene in the U2 concert film RATTLE AND HUM in which Bono
grabs a small hand held spotlight and pierces the darkness of the stadium with
a gigantic beam of light. It was just like that. It looked almost as if Mark's
guitars were radiating into the crowd. It was an image I will never forget as
long as I live. I wanted to reach up and touch that shaft of light, but was
afraid to do so for fear of disturbing the magic. Mark's music was
That's it folks That's my show. And it was MY show...
and everyone there that night has the right to say the same thing. Mark
Knopfler and Emmylou Harris gave a performance that each person present can
claim as their own.
What a night. What a perfect, never to be repeated night. And you know what,
with the exception of my panic attack, I never once felt sick. Not from the
first note to the last. In a very real sense, Mark and company took away all of
my pain for two perfect hours. God bless you guys. All of you.