Eloquent guitar

THE original Notting Hillbilly is now a solo guitarsmith, and he's free to pick and mix his musical collaborators

THE original Notting Hillbilly is now a solo guitarsmith, and he's free to pick and mix his musical collaborators. Last night, at The Point, Mark Knopfler chose "local heroes" Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn, Sean Keane and Mairtin O'Connor to join him onstage for his first few numbers, and the quartet of top traditional players added some extra Celtic frills to songs like Darling Pretty, coming back in the middle of the show for more traditional touches.

Knopfler knows better than to completely deny his Dire Straits legacy, so he brings his own very capable band to relive the music which made him a household name. Walk Of Life strolled back from the mists of time, the signature keyboard riff underscoring Knopfler's gruff vocals; Calling Elvis signed off with some punchy power chords, each one a cue for individual band members to show their mettle.

But it was Knopfler's guitar which shone above everything, and he picked, twiddled and chopped like the seasoned pro that he is, letting the eloquence of his playing compensate for the unrefined vocal growl. He brought out the blues guitar for Romeo And Juliet, and it shone in the spotlight as Knopfler plucked out the familiar lick. Sultans Of Swing was greeted with welcoming applause, but it seemed as if Knopfler was just going through the motions, rather like the eponymous bar band of the title. Hearing this hoary old tune live for the first time, I expected to feel a shiver in the dark, but all I got was an indifferent shrug.

Knopfler performed songs from his current solo album, Golden Heart, blending soft Celtic flavours with his own mellow country influences.


Cannibals was a swinging tune in the vein of Twisting By The Pool, while Vie & Ray was an atmospheric soundtrack to a story of low life in London. Indeed, many of the songs seemed to get reduced to movie themes, as Knopfler and the band improvised lengthy codas and reprises, throwing in some of the man's own movie scores for extra effect. The set ended with Dire Straits' Telegraph Road, the tune crawling along a musical tailback and going nowhere very slowly; the encore of Brothers In Arms sounded little more than a tired requiem for a rock era gone by.

Money For Nothing provided a lively finale to a 2 1/2 hour set, Knopfler changing some of the lyrics to make it politically and commercially correct, but it was one of the few energetic moments in a show that concentrated too much on the worthy and too little on the wild side.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist