I am writing this post while in the car. No, not while driving—I was told I have talents I should explore, and something tells me that writing a blog while driving is not one of them—Jeroen agreed to take the wheel into his hands so I can tell you about that awesome concert we had just witnessed.
If you had read the previous post, you might have got the impression that I was a little… how to say it… edgy. It’s been a really rough day, folks, driving for hours in traffic with an empty stomach. But at the end, we made it. We parked our ride—a brand‐new silver Ford Mustang (V6, fortunately) convertible—at the nearby CBC building and entered the venue about 30 minutes before the opening act. markknopfler.com ticket handouts went very smooth. Front row, dead center: the two monitor speakers, at Knopfler’s feet, were split literally in front of me.
First, I should describe the opening act. Pieta Brown is her name, a gorgeous, sweet girl, born & raised in Iowa. She has just had a new album released in the USA last week, and is promoting her album as the opening act for Mark Knopfler’s North American tour. On stage, she is accompanied by Bo Ramsey.
(Hold on a second… we’re crossing the border)
OK before I go on, here’s some nice tidbit about what just happened to us at the border. 12:00am, the border crossing is virtually empty. We’re approaching the booth; Jeroen is driving, I’m with a laptop on my lap.
BOL (Border officer lady): “How many travellers?”
Well, Jeroen is a scientific programmer. He is known for his accuracy with numbers, and “two” seemed just about the right thing to say.
BOL: “Where are you going to?”
Jeroen: “We are following Mark Knopfler’s concert tour, until May 10th”.
BOL seems perplexed. “Where is your next stop tonight?”
BOL: “And after that?”
Jeroen: “Portland, Northern California and…”
BOL (cuts him): “And where do you live?”
Jeroen: “I’m from The Netherlands”.
BOL: “And you came all the way from The Netherlands for this?”
Jeroen: “Yes, I’m a big fan”.
BOL (still trying to compute what the hell is going on in here): “Well, what do you do for a living?”
Jeroen: “I am a scientific programmer”.
BOL (addressing me): “What about you? are you done with the tour at the same day he is?”
Myself: “Yes, on May 10 I will be back to Toronto”. For some reason I felt it inadequate to mention that it’s only for a short week, then flying to see 50+ more shows in Europe.
BOL: “OK guys, have fun”.
Put yourself in her shoes. It’s 12:00am midnight. She gets two passports, one Dutch and one Canadian with a “Trusted Traveller” designation on it. She asks the simplest question—“where are you going”—and she’s met with a story about two guys following a tour for a month. I think that, if someone is crazy enough to come up with such a story as a cover‐up, he should be granted entry to the USA (or any other country for the matter) on the grounds of extreme creativity.
OK, back to the concert. I now have the laptop on my lap, hooked to the Internet via a Bluetooth connection to my BlackBerry, taking advantage of the unlimited data plan. I feel like I’m that computer geek in “Mission Impossible”, deploying a lab inside a car and communicating with the outside world.
Bo Ramsey, who’s accompanying Pieta Brown, is quite the veteran guitarist. Also born & raised in Iowa, the man had his fair share in song writing, production and collaboration with other artists. He’s keeping it slow with the guitar while performing with Pieta, for the simple reason that this is exactly what Pieta’s songs need: quiet, non‐intrusive, soft Stratocaster bits.
Both Pieta and Bo show a fair bit of passion while playing and singing (Ramsey also does background vocals). It’s a great opening act, folks; check it out. I am sure to get my hands on Pieta’s latest album once the tour hits Toronto.
The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, located right besides the CBC building in downtown Vancouver, is nothing like Seattle’s Moore Theatre: it is big, wide, seats ~3,000, fantastic facilities and the interior is gorgeous.
Seattle’s Moore Theatre’s sound left much to be desired, and so I was anxiously waiting for the main event. And it came; and man, oh man, what a main event it was.
First of all, the entire band looked fresh, alert and ready for action. Mark, who appeared to have been a bit shocked of it all yesterday, was a different person today: he looked relaxed and happy, and when he’s like that—he improvises more (which leads to a better receiving crowd).
Then, the sound. Oh, the sound. What a tremendous improvement. Border Reiver sounded like it should—with a lot of “party factor” in it. So much substance you could feel the roof flying. No weird echoes, no “dead spots”—the sound was simply and utterly great.
Richard’s hand looked a bit better today. For those of you who have been living under a rock recently, a little catch‐up—Richard had scalded his right hand during the rehearsal period in London. Pretty bad business (read about it in his blog; see the right‐hand side‐bar for a link). For a while he doubted his ability to play, but… well, how to say this… seeing Richard perform today, if that is how he plays with a badly scalded right hand, I would suggest to the band to always have a container of boiling water in Richard’s vicinity, and hope that he scalds it again and again. Phenomenal playing, nothing less.
But I guess that’s what it means being a pro. Seriously, go to Richard’s website (http://www.richard-bennett.com), see the “Discography” page. My browser window was actually hung for a few seconds trying to render the gigantic HTML table containing all of the initiatives that Richard took part in. The man’s been playing for 50 years. Yes, that’s right: 50 years.
50 years is a long time. And the reason you haven’t heard much about him (besides his association with Knopfler) is that this is exactly how he wants it. Richard shies away from the spotlight like I shy away from 134m tall bungee jumps (see my good buddy Jonathan doing it in New Zealand). No matter how well you think that you play guitar, most chances are that Richard plays better than you; but he’s not into competition with anybody—he simply loves to play.
Bennett just had his third solo CD, “Valley of the Sun”, released through CD‐Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/richardbennett3). I urge you to get a copy, and while you’re at it, grab a copy of “Themes from a Rainy Decade” (2004) and “Code Red, Cloud Nine” (2008).
Back to the concert: everybody seemed sharp and bursting with energy. The “new guys”, Mike McGoldrick and Tim O’Brien, shone today—Tim playing millions of instruments and Mike handling the flutes like they’re meant to be handled. Guy and Matt complementing each other on the keyboards (and a few other instruments), Glenn Worf sending those bass notes straight into our spines… really, with such a happy bunch, Mark really has no reason to work too hard.
The sound was perfect, but what definitely made this show for me is the surprising setlist change. I mentioned yesterday that there were a couple of songs I couldn’t have imagined to be on the setlist; today, though, I had the honour to listen to one of my favourite songs played live, for the first time in 40 concerts. I realized the band’s up for something when they didn’t start playing their instruments during Mark’s presentation of the band. I then saw Mike McGoldrick sitting down with the Uilleann Pipes and figured that something really fishy is going on; and what a great surprise that was, to listen to that lovely tune from Golden Heart… Oh, such a lovely tune. Mental note to self: listen to Don Henley’s version of that song.
The band is having some neat televised feature this tour. Small cameras are attached to some of Mark’s guitars (as well as to Guy’s and Matt’s pianos) so you can see a fishbowl‐like reflection of the band members playing the instruments, on the screen behind the band. Nicely done, and adds a lot to the show.
Mark seemed to improvise quite a bit today. The Brothers in Arms solo had some interesting twists in it, not to mention a longer‐than‐usual arrangement of Our Shangri‐La (so it seemed) and a brilliant Telegraph Road solo.
I can only hope that the upcoming shows will be anywhere near as good as tonight’s.
We’re approaching Seattle. I’m going to drop Jeroen off at his hotel, and head back to Hadar’s place in Kirkland for the night. Will leave to Portland tomorrow early afternoon.