The Filene Center at Wolftrap
I have never been to the Wolftrap Center for Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia, but I have often wanted to go. Upon hearing that The 2005 SHANGRI-LA Tour
would be making a stop there, and nowhere else nearby (unlike when the SAILING TO PHILADELPHIA Tour made a stop at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC in 2001
- which I attended as well) I began to scramble for tickets. As far as I am
concerned, if Mark Knopfler is performing anywhere within a day's drive from
where I live, I am going to be there. (Sorry, but I don't have the time or disposable
income to fly to other states/countries to see this genius "make that
guitar cry or make it sing", but believe me, if I could I would!)
Unfortunately for me, the show was already sold out. Fortunately for me, I was
able to purchase two seats from a kind Seller on eBay (I only paid face value
Rather than analyze the concert song by song, I will simply try to give an
impression of the entire night.
My wife made reservations for us to dine before the show at the Ovations
Restaurant. This is an open air pavilion near the actual theatre where the
concert was to be performed, where you can sit and enjoy the spectacular view
of the rolling hills of the surrounding mountains. There is a rather lengthy
climb up a steep driveway from the parking lot to this Restaurant, so by the
time you sit down, you are HUNGRY! We arrived early so as to dine leisurely.
(So many concerts that I have attended started out with a mad dash to get to
the men's room, buy that hot dog or bucket of nachos, and get into the arena
before the band got on stage... yet this setting was such a joy to relax in.)
From the start, the day was golden. The sun was extremely warm, but not humid.
The air was calm, but not stiff. The staff had chosen to play the DIRE STRAITS SULTANS OF SWING BEST OF CD as we eagerly stuffed ourselves on a
dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, iced tea and a sundry of other
scrumptious menu items. I must say that right from the start, this was the most
beautiful and relaxing setting for a pre-concert meal I have ever experienced.
After dinner - during which we stayed long enough to hear the aforementioned CD
one and one half times through because I was not leaving my seat until I heard
the live version of GOING HOME - we strolled into the Filene Center to find our seats.
I was immediately struck at the huge and varied amount of fans who had decided
to pack a picnic dinner and lounge on the grassy lawn area at the top of the
Pavilion for a pre-show meal. There were husbands and wives, sipping wine and
chatting. There were mothers with babies on their hips, fathers with their
teenage sons at their side. (I still think we had a better meal, but these
folks sure looked like they were enjoying themselves). There were so many
different age groups, as well as ethnic groups, represented here! It was
beautiful to see all of these different cultures coming together with a common
I asked a ticket taker and quickly found that I was able to do something that I
have never been able to do at any other concert I have ever attended... I was
able to purchase a Tour Program and a T-Shirt and actually LEAVE the Pavilion
area in order to place these valuable items in my car! I cannot tell you how
many concerts I have attended (hundreds) where I spent most of the time worried
that that ever present "drunk fan" sitting behind/beside/or right
next to me would spill their beer all over my nice new Tour Program! I really
want to thank the staff at the Filene Center for allowing folks like me to come
and go so freely. All my wife and I had to do was get our hands stamped, and
off we went. We took our "new toys" and strolled back down the hill
to our Nissan Xterra. Once inside, my wife confessed to me that she was glad to
have a moment to lie back in the car because she ate so much at dinner that she
needed a rest! I too had stuffed myself (it was an “All You Can Eat” format,
and who among us hasn't eaten all they could get!) so we reclined our seats,
slid the SHANGRI-LA CD into the player, cranked the air conditioner, and
almost fell asleep to 5:15! After some rest, it was time to climb that hill
again, and off to the show!
We found our seats (directly in the center near the middle of the arena, on the
lower level under the roof which housed the balcony seats) and struck up a
conversation with an older fan from Chicago. He told us about how his teenage
son was also present, with seats in the above balcony, and that they had
travelled all the way from the Windy City to be here. Again I was struck by how
many age groups were present. It was this fan's first MK show, and I was happy
to be seated next to someone who was obviously as excited to be there as I was.
Now came the show. (The opening act, Bap Kennedy, really didn't do much for me,
and the three of us-my wife, myself and our new found friend from Chicago)
chatted during most of his performance.
From the first chords of WHY AYE MAN, I must confess that I was tricked.
I thought I was hearing CALLING ELVIS, much as I did in 2001. I, like
many others, tend not to want to know the set list beforehand as I feel that it
takes away that initial thrill when you first hear the opening chords of your
favorite song. But when Mark began to sing: "We've got no way of staying
afloat..." I knew we were in for many more surprises! (Having never heard WHY AYE MAN performed live in person before, I was thrilled!) WALK OF LIFE
followed, just as in 2001. When Danny Cummings began the traditional drum roll
which signaled the start of What It Is, I was slightly disappointed that Mark
had dropped the INTRO/BONNIE BANKS OF LOCH LOMOND that he had used on
the STP Tour as a means of explaining the history of one of my favorite songs.
But at least we heard it in '01! SAILING TO PHIALDELPHIA came next, followed by ROMEO AND JULIET. As the songs rolled on, the evening took on the feeling of a
coming home party. Many members of the crowd-myself included-shouted cheers of
"Welcome back Mark" and "We missed you Mark!" (If you
listen to the bootleg of the show, you will hear me shout the second remark
just before DONE WITH BONAPARTE.) But the two best moments for me came
when, at the end of BOOM LIKE THAT, I began to sense (I sensed it rather than
felt or heard it, if that makes sense) the brushy beat of the beginning of SPEEDWAY AT NAZARETH. For me, this was a highlight. You see, when I saw MK in '01,
he did not perform this song. Then sometime later, I obtained a version which
had been recorded in 2001 at Massey Hall in Toronto. THAT VERSION ROCKS, and
ever since then, I had prayed for the chance to hear that song live. By the
time it ended, I was screaming and sweating and dancing and singing! (My new Chicago friend was laughing at me, as was my wife!) The last best moment came when TELEGRAPH ROAD started. Just as I did in '01, as the keyboards begin to fade and the
guitar prepares to sing (about one minute into the song) I hollered at the top
of my lungs in excitement! At that exact moment, I was the only one in the Pavilion
making any noise-except for the band of course. (You can hear me do this in the
bootleg of Wolftrap as well as the '01 show in DC). That song made the night
for me. The only regret was that the band was unable to play either OUR SHANGRI-LA or GOING HOME due to time restrictions. SO FAR AWAY
was how Mark left us that night, just as he did in '01.
Guy Fletcher himself has said (on his Tour Diary page) the following about this
show: "Now as far as sheds go, this one must be the best. A truly
wonderful venue in a beautiful setting for a concert blessed by the most
fabulous weather... What a lovely atmosphere... The show itself was probably
one of the best of the tour..."
I could not agree more.
All in all, a breathless, warm, exciting, loud and wonderful evening. My wife
has since said that she has NEVER enjoyed a live venue as much as she did
Wolftrap. Thank you Mark, for a timeless evening that I will never forget. I'll
see you on the next Tour... just listen for me at the beginning of TELEGRAPH ROAD (if you can hear me from the stage) and you'll know I made the show!