Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

D.A.R. Constitution Hall

Washington, D.C.

21 June 2006

Mark 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 me.   

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.

The Encores:

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 illuminating...

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.