Money for Nothing

Mark Knopfler

Rosemont Theatre - Rosemont

May 5, 2001

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2001, Volume 8, #6

Written by John Metzger


In the mid-’80s, Mark Knopfler walked away from Dire Straits to focus on crafting movie soundtracks instead of pop music. It was the height of that band’s popularity, and many questioned the move. The band reformed to record one final album — 1991’s On Every Street — and for one final trek around the world. But in 1995, the ensemble called it quits for good.

Fans of Knopfler and the band need not worry, however. Though he’s continued to spend more time working on films rather than rock songs, he still has managed to release two terrific albums —Golden Heart and Sailing to Philadelphia — and recently began his first, full-blown world tour in a decade. It’s a welcome return for a gifted artist, so to say that his May 5 concert at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois was eagerly anticipated — well, that is probably an understatement.

Unfortunately, Knopfler’s performance failed to live up to expectations, and at times, his 2 ½ hours of crowd-pleasing selections became a grueling experience. Much of the material from his new album failed to take flight: What It Is was poorly executed and downright sloppy, while Sailing to Philadelphia (without the duet with James Taylor that appears on its recorded counterpart) became a flat photograph instead of a picturesque panorama. Selections from Golden Heart, such as Rudiger and Done with Bonaparte were impeccably delivered from a technical standpoint.  Nevertheless, they also lacked passion.  Further, several epic Dire Straits songs fared worst of all: On Romeo and Juliet, drummer Chad Cromwell seemed completely out of synch with the band, often allowing the tempo to drag rather than soar, and though Sultans of Swing stayed together, the group failed to ignite it.

All evening, only five songs lived up to their potential, and these appeared in the final hour of the concert. On Baloney Again, Knopfler and guitarist Mike Henderson explored the tune’s dark, dusky alleys, and the riveting unreleased track Pyro Man plowed through a down and dirty roadhouse blues groove. For the most part, both Telegraph Road and Brothers in Arms were standard Dire Straits fare — the kind that one should expect, full of rousing guitar and bittersweet emotion. And Speedway to Nazareth struck a delicate balance between gentle bluegrass and violent guitar rock.

But that was it: Five songs that achieved greatness out of the eighteen that were performed. Nothing more, except perhaps the playful, rural take on Money for Nothing that promisingly began the second encore.  Like the rest of the show, however, this quickly derailed as Knopfler led his band back into a more routine rendition of the song.

Knopfler is indeed a talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He’s one of the very best.  But on May 5, he simply seemed to be going through the motions. Fans should expect more, especially at the exorbitant price of concert tickets these days. Otherwise it is just money for nothing. And that’s pretty much what they got.

Sailing to Philadelphia is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Copyright © 2001 The Music Box