Mark Knopfler North American Tour Begins

The Mark Knopfler tour has begun. The band includes: Mark Knopfler - all kinds of guitars, and vocals on his own stellar songs. Guy Fletcher - keyboards, samples, guitars, and vocals. Guy is the music director, Marks right hand man on stage and in the studio. Danny Cummings - drums and vocals. Richard Bennett - all kinds of guitars, bouzoukis, caviquiño. Glenn Worf - basses Matt Rollings, piano, organ, accordion, and vocals Mike McGoldrick - flute, penny whistle, pipes, cittern Me - fiddle, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, bouzoukis, banjo, vocals.

We started with three weeks of rehearsal in London. It was funny staying in the same hotel room for that long. Amazingly, I only had curry about six times, three of them at the Standard Balti house on Brick Lane. Kit came for a visit the last week. On a ten day break between rehearsals and the tour start, I went home and mixed a new record. It's now mastered and the artwork is coming along. Its title is Chicken and Egg, and it features 11 of my new songs, and three covers. Kit and I also spent a day and night at a country get-away we just purchased 30 minutes outside of Nashville.

March 13

My roadie is named Kevin Rowe. His great grandparents on his mom's side are East Indian, but moved to the Jamaica, where his dad's family descended from the slave culture. Then his parents moved to the England, so he has an East Indian look, African color. and a British Birmingham accent. He was working most recently with Ray Davies and he's as sweet as can be. Every member of the crew is wonderful and very attentive. I take one instrument off and Kevin hands me the next one, having tuned it and put the capo on the correct fret. Then he makes sure it's turned on. These guys learn the show just like we do. Kevin's also minding bassist Glenn Worf and flute and cittern player Mike McGoldrick. Mark has his own guy who does all his effects. Kerry Lewis is the monitor mixer, A Welshman. He has eight separate mixes for the band plus a few more, and each song is programmed specially, so if it's a quieter song, or a louder song, or whatever the variables could be, he adjusts the mix to your needs. It's getting better daily. The custom molded in ear-monitors act like earplugs, shutting out ambient noise (drums, electric guitars), so it's pretty well manageable. Dave Dixon on he front of house mix is doing the same with programming the mixes as we rehearse.

I'm playing Richard Bennett's '54 telecaster, through Mark's Fender Vibroverb, but today i needed a really shitty, dirty overdriven sound with extreme tremolo for a killer chilled out song called Coyote, so they brought out a little five watt Marshall. We turned it all the way up and i get this really sparse but crucial part. Just one more detail to handle. Many more to go, of course, but we've learned about eighteen songs.

Day off tomorrow. Road manager Pete McKay is trying to get us a private tour of the Tower of London, after it closes. There's some sort of elaborate key ceremony he says we should see, where they lock all the doors and turn them over to the night staff. (As long as they don't lock us in there&.) There's a solo Bach competition at the library a block away, from I think 10am to 6pm. I might check that out. I need to review the detail of the week. I have my fiddle and guitar in the room, plus a ukulele that my English friend Phil Davidson just made for me. There's a lot of little fiddle and flute lines to remember. I have a hard time remembering each piece, particularly a couple days later. We've been going back over most stuff each day, practicing groups of two or three songs and the transitions between them. Its not like we can start them over when the tour starts. Most of these guys have been in the band since 96, so Mike and I are new guys and the vets are sympathetic to our steep climb on the learning curve. Im learning intimately that less is more. I hope to slowly acquire a level of discipline that's rarely been required or exercised in my normal situation in the past thirty years as a pro.

Okay, I'm meeting Richard Bennett in the pub across the street.

April 10

The plane takes off like a rocket, sorta shooting up into the sky. There are three sections - Mark and Guy face each other on the right front side, there's an aisle in the center, with Danny and Richard on the opposite side. Middle section of four clustered around a dinette table with aisle to one side is myself and Glenn facing backwards, Mike and Matt facing forward. Paul Crockford, Tim Hook, and Pete McKay -manager and road managers - are in a sorta back room by the toilet. We were handed bottles of water and newspapers at our seats and then after takeoff here comes sushi. And more sushi in case you wanted it. And the stewardess took drink orders for the trip after the show. We get there and the drinks are poured and waiting. After takeoff, Chinese food.

The flight from Seattle to Vancouver provided stunning views of the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound, and occasional peeks at snow capped peaks to the east. That was my first flight on a private jet.

Another less amazing but still notable first was the electric mirror in my Seattle hotel bathroom. A remote control sat by the sink, so I pushed the on button, and CNN came on in the mirror. Somehow it's about a second and a half behind the TV in the room itself.

After the gigs these first few nights, we've adjourned to the hotel bar for band meetings. Recapping the show and what could be tighter, how it's pace could adjust with a slightly different set list, monitor problems, lighting, everything is up for analysis. Mark really cares about it getting it right so we can dig deeper into the groove and do the best we possibly can.

Last night's set: Border Riever - I play a fiddle tuned up a half step to make Scottish sounds in C minor. What It Is - normal tuned fiddle, more Scot's licks in unison with Mark's electric guitar and Mike McGoldrick's whistle.

Sailing To Philadelphia - I sing the part of Charles Mason to Mark's Jeremiah Dixon, play Nugget bouzouki.

Cleaning My Gun - my part is Mark's recorded finger picked telecaster, against Richard Bennetts Burns electric 12 string, while Mark sings and plays fills on his electric.

Coyote - I switch from a fender Vibroverb to a little Marshall with radical tremolo (driven by that nasty back pickup), and play a sparse but essential arpeggio on the chorus, and whole note tremolo chords throughout.

Hill Farmer - back to the Fender and both pickups. Another third chair electric part played with pickup switch in middle position. I'm using Richard's 54 Tele because it's just a lot better sounding than mine.

I sit out Romeo and Juliet and Sultans Of Swing, get my banjo ready for: Marbletown - Ome banjo clawhammer style. Mark on small bodied Martin. There's a jam on most songs toward the end. On this one, Mark and I play off of one another, and then Mike joins in, we end up in a reel I don't know the name of, and then it somehow concludes.

Remembrance Day - techs bring out stools for Richard and me. He's on Strat and I'm on Mark's D-42, playing a twin finger picking rhythm part while Mark remembers and plays fills. Speedway To Nazareth - back to banjo on a Highland kinda song melody, with lyrics about NASCAR. Marks got a Les Paul, and Richard starts the song on an acoustic, but toward the end there's jam again, and he switches to his Les Paul and makes a dramatic power chord entrance. It's the roar of a high performance race care engine in musical form and Im this little plinky thing between their throbbing solid bodies& This makes Mark smile every time.

Telegraph Road - this one is a mini pop rock symphony about the progress of civilization. Mike and I play a double cittern and bouzouki part (I'm on the Giacomel) that sparkles under the vocal at times, other times we're tacit.

We go off stage, knowing we'll play encores. There are beers and wine glasses and margaritas, and a non-alcoholic drink for Matt Rollings. We get ready for the finish: Brothers In Arms - I play sparkly mando arpeggios, twinning Richard's finger picked part. Shangri-La - I'm back on the Giacomel, strumming an island groove, singing high baritone. We all come center stage and take bows and of course the crowd wants more. We confer and check the time, and then play:

Local Hero - Nugget mandolin chords.

Piper To The End - another Scottish fiddle and whistle part, on a song about Mark's late uncle, a piper in World War II.

As we leave the stage, we take our in ear monitors and receiver packs, put them in tubs with our names on them. Road manager Pete McKay hands us our jackets, having already taken our carryon bags to the cars. In about three minutes we're rolling toward the airport, and soon right to the door of the jet. On this flight I can leave my Swiss army knife in my pocket. When we land in Portland 40 minutes later, a customs agent comes on board and clears us through.

I need to thank Brad Inserra for his hospitality at his Swing Side Café on the night of our Seattle tech run through. The whole band plus road mangers went there on the 7th. Perfect oysters in ponzu sauce, bean salad, tripe stew, calamari in earthy sauce, and the mushroom and lobster risotto sealed the deal. A private mini concert by the Spoonshine duo ended it. Thanks also to Orville Johnson and John Orleman for the dim sum in Chinatown.

My interest piqued by Mark's song Sailing To Philadelphia I've started reading Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon.

Share this
by R & T