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Hello. My name is Isaac Shabtay, 32 years old from Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s “Get Lucky” tour during the spring‐summer of 2010. This is in much the same way I did for Knopfler’s 2008 “Kill to Get Crimson” tour (see the “Links” section), except that this time, I will be following the entire tour—starting April 8 in Seattle, Washington, and ending July 31 in Gredos, Spain. Similarly to before, though, you are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read and comment. All comments, positive and negative, are welcome. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see links at the right‐hand side of the screen), so new posts become available through your favorite RSS reader. Have fun, Isaac

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Concert Day: Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA (May 7, 2010)

After spending quite an eventful day in Manhattan, you would probably expect me to have slept really well for, say, 12 hours. Our hotel is in Newark airport, and the drive to Upper Darby takes a couple of hours, so why not sleep in?

Well, it turns out that this trip keeps bearing surprises. As Mark says, “it is never a done deal”. I guess I am not programmed to have easy, relaxing, sleep‐in‐and‐minimum‐effort days. And as such, I have a lot to write about today.

I mentioned in the last post that today I was going to meet with a cousin of mine, whom I had never seen before. Won’t go into details as to why… I’ll just say that it wasn’t due to choice (at least not ours). We discussed the day before, and agreed to meet at his university residence at Temple University in Philadelphia.

And so by 10:30am Jeroen and I were already in the car driving towards Philadelphia. It’s an easy two hours drive; I was very tired as I hardly slept the night before. A few espressos seemed to have just pushed the problem away, as I would go completely zombie after just a few minutes of alertness.


The Temple University area is quite the shady place. I would never be caught dead walking there at nights, there’s considerable negligence around—however the campus area seems to be rather safe. And at around 1:00pm, I finally met David.

This perhaps is not the most fitting place to write about it, what you feel like when you finally reconnect with someone you have such close blood relationship with—I will suffice by saying that it was very exciting. Won’t divulge too much detail however I should note that the fact that he got to wherever he is at the moment is a fantastic success story that makes me feel a tremendous amount of pride.


Drove to downtown Philadelphia to escort the young student while he was looking for accommodation for the summer term. The downtown area of Philadelphia is crowded, yet beautiful—has its own “air” (if you ignore the piles of garbage bags on the sidewalks), its own charm; I have vivid memories of really enjoying researching the downtown area of Philadelphia two years ago during the Kill to Get Crimson tour.

Two hours later we went back to the car. David, who is 20 years old but probably started playing guitar 21 years ago, seemed to be very interested in the concert tour. I felt a bit sad that he wasn’t going to come to the concert with us (he mentioned that he would love to see Knopfler perform live).

It was just around that time when I suddenly realized that my BlackBerry wouldn’t accept / make calls anymore, and wouldn’t do any data communication whatsoever. Turns out that my T‐Mobile subscription has expired (and I was sure they were going to charge my credit card automagically…fail), and as I forgot my Canadian SIM card at the hotel, I was now incommunicado. What a strange feeling that is, to be completely and utterly disconnected from the world.

Dropped David back at the shady area of Temple University and drove to Newtown, PA. Nancy organized a meeting between us and the volunteer coordinator at the hospice where Nancy is doing volunteer work; a full article about that is to be posted soon, as part of my “On Giving” project—for now, I will just say that it has been a tremendously‐exciting eye‐opening experience. I advise that you read that article once it’s posted.

Seems like a lot of events so far for the day, huh? Well, think again. Right after that, the four of us—Nancy, Ellyn (Nancy’s friend), Jeroen and myself—drove to Southampton, PA for dinner in a vegetarian restaurant. No, I did not lose my mind; I still am quite the carnivore (let me remind you of the pound of fabulous steak I had just the day before), but Nancy has suggested it and who am I to turn down a suggestion for interesting culinary experience.

There, we met with another friend of Nancy—Celine (have I spelled that correctly? I hope so). So, folks, I’m happy to say that another restaurant has rightfully earned Isaac’s Seal of Approval today. The place is called Blue Sage (website: and located in Southampton, PA—they have an amazing vegetarian menu, each item tells a story more interesting than the previous one; ingredients are unmistakably fresh; service is fantastic; portions are HUGE (I couldn’t finish it) and the atmosphere is cozy and warm. Would definitely go again if I’m in the area.

Now comes the fun fact that made the evening for me. It turned out that Celine had an extra ticket for the fifth row. Now lets see… I have a cousin I met for the first time today, enthusiastic about seeing Knopfler perform; I have a chance at a fifth‐row ticket; quite the mind‐twisting exercise, isn’t it. Immediately called David and commanded him to be at the Tower Theatre by 7:30pm. I guess things were just meant to happen like that.

By the time dinner was over I was absolutely exhausted; what am I going to do in Europe with all of the tiredness that has been attacking me daily for the last few weeks—that I don’t know. Lets all hope for the better. Anyway, I was in no condition to drive, so Jeroen took over.

The road from Southampton to Upper Darby—mere 40km—took almost an hour and a half to do. Traffic was a nightmare, and I couldn’t really sleep in the car due to the frequent stops. At the end, we made it to the venue by 7:40pm, 20 minutes before Pieta’s show.

Nancy and her friends wasn’t there yet, and no sign of David. I generally don’t like it when things don’t go exactly as planned, let alone when I’m tired as a dead horse. I really wanted to catch Pieta Brown’s show today, however I had to step out to ensure that David and Nancy did indeed meet so nobody remains left out of the venue. At 8:20pm, they all showed up at once, blaming traffic (and justifiably so; it was really horrendous).

David and I remained at the lobby, still catching up, during Pieta’s show. At 8:40pm, 10 minutes before the show, we entered the concert hall.

Jeroen and myself were seated at the front row, dead centre; the pack of three beautiful women (and David) were seated at the fifth row. To my right, there were Joanne and Bill, who introduced themselves to me as readers of this blog. Nice meeting with you and thank you for your support!

At 8:50pm, the group of eight took the stage and the show started.

Other than the fact that we had one song left than usual, it was, as usual, a great show. The crowd was rather loud—of course cheering vividly once their city’s name was mentioned. Some chatter at the back but it stopped after a while. Mark, still seated, gave the impression as if his condition is improving—if you hadn’t known about his injury, you’d think that he really likes to sit down while playing.

The entire band played very well, a great show with just the tiniest sync incidence as the band continued playing Hill Farmer’s Blues even though Mark ended his solo; Jeroen claimed to he didn’t notice it, and I’m pretty sure nobody else did either, it took much less than one second for the entire band to sync up.

Well, they are pro’s.


(That last picture showing Richard & Guy… great picture, isn’t it. Jeroen is quite the photographer)

But as I said before, certain elements make or break the show; and what made the show today had nothing to do with the band.

I really wanted David to experience this show from where it should be experienced—the best seat in the house. I was expecting the audience to stand up after Romeo and Juliet—which they did—and took the opportunity to carry my arse to the fifth row, sending David to the front (we did the switch between the songs so it doesn’t interrupt anybody). Judging by David’s constantly moving head, I got the impression that he really enjoyed it there.

A few songs later, Jeroen felt that family members should not be watching the show while seated separately; and so, thanks to Jeroen’s kindness, I was seated back at my original seat right after Marbletown ended. There we were, two cousins that met for the first time ever today, enjoying the best live music on earth from the very centre of the front row. That made the entire show for me—that, plus the expression of utter amazement on David’s face. He loved the show, and that’s what matters. I was more than happy to give up my front‐row seat for him, and deeply thanking Jeroen for allowing the family to reunite later during the show.

After the show, we bid the girls good night; took about 30 minutes to get out of the parking lot. We dropped David back at his place and drove back to the hotel.

Oh what an eventful, long yet pleasant day today.

Tomorrow, Nancy will be picking us up from the hotel and drive us to Atlantic City, for the second‐to‐last show in North America. We’re expected to leave the hotel at around 2:00pm or 3:00pm; will take it easy and relaxed until then.

So long for now,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Concert Day: United Palace Theatre, New‐York City, NY (May 6, 2010)

New‐York, New‐York. What a city. I guess you can never get bored in here.

Woke up at around 8:30am, really happy that I don’t have to do any driving today. The plan was to take the train from Newark airport to Penn Station and back at night. From the hotel, we took a shuttle to the airport, and there waited for about 45 minutes for a late train to take us to Penn Station.

Once in Penn Station, I sort‐of got the feeling that I am at the center of the world. The amount of traffic going through that station is just unbelievable.

We were starving. Once in Penn Station, I located an Auntie Anne’s stand selling those pretzels I like so much (Miriam… I can explain… it’s not what it looks like). Our plan was to go for lunch immediately, however our destination was a bit far and we were really, really hungry.

My buddy Jonathan, whose father spent a good chunk of his life in Argentina (which explains his demanding taste), has commanded me, before the trip, to pay a visit to an Argentinean restaurant called Buenos Aires. Located in downtown, on 1st Avenue & East 6th Street, it was too far to walk so we took a couple of subway rides to get there.

Coming out of the “L” subway line at 14th (?) and 1st Avenue, we had about 10 minutes walk ahead of us. Not the fanciest location in Manhattan, but still, so many businesses and restaurants, mostly displeasing to the eye.

Then we arrived at Buenos Aires Restaurant. Not a very big restaurant, however right as we stepped in, I got the feeling that this is going to be a good meal.

One of the most obvious differences in the restaurant experience between North America and, say, Europe, has to do with the staff. The waiting staff in most non‐American restaurants I’ve been to are well‐trained, not only with the menu but also with the ability to give you, the paying customer, the feeling that you’re welcome. Being a waiter there is not a low‐paying, low‐class “job” that one takes just because no other alternatives were available (this is the general case; I’m not saying it applies everywhere in North America).

Following Jonathan’s command, we ordered a couple of empanadas and a one pound (!) skirt steak (called Entraña in Argentina).

The tasteful, delicious empanadas were only a sign to what was to come next. They actually had to fold the long skirt steak so it fits in the plate.

As Jonathan repeatedly says, good food is first and foremost about the ingredients. The steak we so happily consumed today didn’t look anything special. No spices; definitely no sauce. Just plain, high‐quality meat—that’s all you really need. And man was it good. Cuts easy, chewed easy, and tastes wonderfully—very easy to consume one pound of beef when it tastes like that.

Happy with the meal, we continued our journey. We stopped by the Apple Store on 14th street, as Jeroen was commissioned to buy an iPad for a friend of his in The Netherlands. Now this is something I can’t really relate to: there appears to be quite the hype surrounding Apple’s products. That’s a well known fact, but I never actually saw it happening until today. People flock those stores just to see what the cool technology is all about. It’s considered cool to carry Apple’s products. How Steve Jobs managed to get Apple to a position where so many people eagerly awaits and accepts anything the company feeds them—that I don’t know, but I have to say the guy’s a genius for doing that.

I should also note that the iPad appears to be quite the toy. Nice to have for those evenings you wanna surf the net while laying on a hammock.

I don’t have that much free time.

Next, we proceeded to B&H Photo Video. Now that’s a story worth telling. I am no photography buff however still I heard so many things about that store that, now that the time came to buy a camera, I had to check it out. One of my friends, a photography buff, once said that whoever hasn’t been to B&H Photo Video before, has never really been to a photography store before.

That place sells anything that comes between a person’s eye and the object being looked at: still cameras, video cameras, telescopes… if your eyes want to look at something, then those guys from B&H Photo Video want to sell you something to come between you and the object you behold.

And they have everything; and when I say everything, I mean everything. The store occupies two levels and an entire block; would be really easy to get lost there if it wasn’t for the signs. It is owned by a family of orthodox Jewish people; almost all of the employees there are Jewish, and almost all of those are orthodox—for a minute, I thought I’m in downtown Bney‐Brak in Israel.

What’s interesting about that place is how you actually go about buying something. Here is the process I went through to buy a camera:

  1. Consulted a camera specialist. There are many of those in the store, and they know everything. That’s what they’re trained to do, and apparently they’re trained very well. No question unanswered; no “I don’t know”; no “I guess”.
  2. Once you decide which camera you want, the “consultant” gives you a piece of paper and sends you to another line, there you meet with a person who fulfils your order, offers accessories and gives advice—you may call it a sales tactics to try to make you buy more things, and it may be true but it certainly saved me (the guy there was knowledgeable enough to tell me which type of memory card I shouldn’t buy as it limits the camera’s functionality, etc). After talking to him, you basically have the order ready; he gives you a different piece of paper (and takes the old one away), sending you to a different line.
  3. That is the payment line. About 10 cashiers, all they do is just get the payment from you, in any shape or form. You pay, and are given a receipt—and sent to another line.
  4. Your order is already there, packaged and ready to go.

Sounds complex? it isn’t, and the shocking thing here is that it goes so fast that before you know what hits you you’re already outside of the store with a bag in your hand.

Genius. Efficient. I like this kind of things.

We then walked towards Times Square, circumnavigating through millions of people.


My friend Ehud, whom I met in Menlo Park, CA just a few weeks ago, said this about NYC—and I think it pretty much sums up why this place is so great; he said—whatever humanity has produced and thought you should have access to—is there for you within short distance. Very true. NYC, and specifically Manhattan, has everything. I would probably never live there (I prefer smaller, quieter places), but I have to admit that if the modern world has a centre, then NYC must be it.

One thing I don’t understand is why would any Manhattan resident ever want to own a car. Forget the fact that you can get almost everywhere with public transit (and walk to the places public transit doesn’t get to); DRIVING IN MANHATTAN IS AN INSANE EXERCISE IN A WASTE OF TIME. There’s way too many cars there. Look how they’re parked.


Anyway, our next goal was to wrap our teeth over a good New‐York cheese‐cake. Readers of this blog have raved about Junior’s; turns out they have a store in Times Square. We went. We ordered. We demolished it. It was very good. Here’s what they have to offer:


Nancy and her friend Ellyn came to NYC to see the concert, so we met near their hotel on 57th & 7th and went for dinner in some sushi place—of course, I didn’t eat anything (no room left). Then the time came to take the transit north to 175th street, where the United Palace Theatre is located, so we went to the Columbus Circle station and went on subway line “A” all the way north. That’s about 120 blocks in 20 minutes.


Got our tickets—front row, dead centre again. I then noticed Rudy Pensa, the guitar luthier who made more than a few guitars for Mark over the years. He was standing there chatting with a few friends; I went ahead and introduced myself, telling him that I admire his work. I really do love the sound of those Pensa’s.

An anecdote from the last tour is that I was actually well & ready to purchase a Pensa guitar while I was in New‐York: at the day of the concert (in Central Park), I met Rudy at the Meet & Greet, introduced myself, we had a little chat and he asked me to meet him at his store the next morning; he never showed up, and so he’s now approximately $7,500 less rich than he could have been.

I had to do some travel research for tomorrow as there’s a few exciting things happening then, so I split from the gang and went to a nearby Starbucks for some Internet access, passing through some suspicious‐looking dudes. Unpleasant at best but what can you do. This is NYC: and there’s place here for everybody.

Went back to the venue 20 minutes before the show. Upon entering, there was Rudy again talking to one Mr. Paul Crockford. They didn’t really seem to put too much effort into hiding the contents of their discussion (they were almost yelling; but then again, who wouldn’t; it was very crowded), but that’s OK, I won’t tell anyone. Frankly I wasn’t much interested in their discussion as I had other burning things on my mind, however once I heard the name “John Monteleone” I just had to turn around, then I noticed Rudy introducing Mr. Monteleone to Paul.

Huh. Interesting. Jeroen claimed vigorously that the song Monteleone will be played tonight; I didn’t buy it.

The night before, on our way to Newark, we listened to Pieta Brown’s album in the car. It’s a great album, I suggest you get your hands on one of those. Anyway, I got her album today, we had a little chat. Was nice.

Entered the concert hall and the show started within minutes.

I have nothing much to tell about the venue that isn’t going to be written by Richard and Guy anyway, so I’ll keep it short—the sound is great, it’s nice looking but way too much decorative details.


Audience is generally noisier and less polite at the east coast than in the west coast, that’s for sure. Jeroen told me some more horror stories about the audience’s behaviour during Pieta Brown’s show; and during the first 10 minutes or so of Mark’s concert, people were still walking around, finding their seats, arguing with other people who may have taken their seats, obstructing the view and whatnot.

A tall, big guy working for the theatre has been commissioned to watch for the stage; for whatever reason, the venue’s management has decided to have him sit by the stage exactly at the middle, which made his head obstruct quite a bit of the stage’s view for the first few rows. A few songs into the show, an MK crew member came up to him, they had a few words and I never saw that staff worker again.

The show went smooth, with Mark playing as if he never pinched any nerve. Good stuff, great performance of Sailing to Philadelphia with a melting outro solo played with much taste over the high frets—fantastic.

Everything went normal until it was time for the band to play Get Lucky, as they have been doing during most shows so far. I noticed Mark being handed the acoustic guitar, but I guess I should have paid closer attention, because then I would notice that the capo was at the 2nd fret rather than on the 4th.

Mark then started a 3–4 minutes speech about an interesting New‐York story, basically giving the background to John Monteleone’s work. Turned out that the band was saving Monteleone for this particular show, which—completely not coincidentally, I’m sure—seemed to be fitting as John Monteleone himself was sitting at the audience.

What can I tell you, folks… I was ecstatic, and didn’t really do much to hide it. I really like that song, and heard it played live only once before—during the Hurlingham Club gig last September. Tonight’s performance of this song, though, was a completely different story: it was well‐done, perfect all the way to the last note. Amazing, I have no other words to describe it.

A setlist change, at last!

Come on, lets bring some sailors for the next concert and have a go at So Far from the Clyde.

I recall clapping rather violently after that song was played; I absolutely loved it.

Telegraph Road sent the audience (with me in it) to the sky with a mind‐blowing solo that sort‐of made me not want to play guitar ever again, because, really, what’s the point. Considerably violet riffs, that outro solo was a perfect fit for a wild dance party.

Great concert, great experience. What a way to end the day.


After the concert, it was quite a long subway ride down to Penn Station as the subway stopped in each and every stop. Another half an hour in Penn Station for the NJ Transit train to Newark airport, and then another 45 minutes wasted waiting for the hotel’s shuttle to pick us up. Utter failure by the hotel’s staff, but then again, what can you do.

It’s a part of the experience, I guess.

Tomorrow’s going to be an exciting day, meeting a cousin I never met before (and never thought I ever would) plus a visit to the hospice where Nancy is volunteering. And of course, a concert in Upper Darby at the evening.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Concert Day: Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ (May 5, 2010)

Woke up this morning in Somerville, MA to a bright sunny day, toward which I was completely oblivious for the first couple of hours because I was exhausted due to lack of sleep the night before. The only thing I can remember about today’s first couple of hours was (you guessed it) breakfast.

Already have mastered the art of packing quickly, we left the hotel as soon as humanly possible (that rude front‐desk girl was there. I wanted to see whether her rude attitude was anecdotal or systematic; I checked; it’s systematic). As I was only 10% awake, Jeroen did the driving to a breakfast place he had read reviews about—Ball Square Cafe in downtown Somerville.

Oh, finally, having great breakfast. After some colossal culinary failures, we finally landed on a good place. Drinks are free (except for espresso‐based products), and their menu wasn’t limited to the standard American breakfast menu. Great service, and I had a delicious smoked salmon omelette, baked potato… just enough to start the day.

(Or, as it turned out quite shortly after, fall asleep again in the car)

I don’t really know what happened during the next hour or two as Jeroen was driving us away from Massachusetts; I was half asleep, in need of caffeine (that good breakfast place boasted some terrible cappuccino that I couldn’t drink. You want to heat the milk, not cook it. Someone please write that sentence on a huge placard and hang it just above their espresso machine); I do remember though that at some point we switched, and I found myself in the driver’s seat.

The ride from Massachusetts towards Connecticut is very pleasant (we’ve been here before… just a couple of days ago), with scenery getting quite impressive once you hit Connecticut. Such a beautiful state, I fail to understand how during my 8 years in North America I never got around to tour around.

Zero traffic jams, as we chose a slightly longer ride—rather than taking the straight way down to New‐Jersey, we took the I‐84, I‐287 towards Morristown—bypassing NYC and neighbouring traffic altogether. Brilliant weather, can’t think of better weather for a convertible ride.

As we were just about to leave Connecticut, I decided to have some coffee in that beautiful state before I kiss it goodbye. A search for cafe’s on our route showed just under five billion Starbucks stores, but I did find one entry there for a local cafe.

Mocha Coffee House (Google Maps & reviews, website), located at Sandy Hook, CT, is a superb coffee house offering interesting drinks, comfortable indoor seating and a gorgeous patio overlooking a peaceful river running next to impressive greenery. Taking a look at the view, I really didn’t want to go anywhere else. I was more than willing to park my ass on one of those tall metal seats in the patio, shift to relaxation mode and the hell with everything else.


Being there made me feel bad about the proliferation of chain cafe’s and restaurants, on the expense of locally‐owned, authentic establishments. Granted, buying coffee at Starbucks may save you a few pennies on your coffee; so the coffee costs you less, but over time, you lose something else which you cannot possibly buy back with the money you saved: you lose sight of the small details, of the small establishments, of variety. Now how ironic is that… the so‐called “free market” eventually leads to the lack of freedom in choosing where to dine, because people apply market rules on their dining choices (why eat in a slightly more expensive local establishment, if I can eat at some lousy chain for less money and I know what I’m getting).

Sad thoughts.

After a total of about 5–6 hours of driving through green landscapes, lakes, rivers and hills, we finally arrived at Red Bank, NJ—not before we experienced some slow traffic but nothing too harsh.


Red Bank, NJ (Wikipedia:,_New_Jersey) is a tiny town off the southern bank of the Navesink River. It used to be a major economic center until the 1987 recession which lead to a significant decline in the town’s economy.

As we were going to spend the night at a hotel near Newark airport, we drove directly to Red Bank with all of our belongings; that required us to change in the car, once we parked. At least I didn’t feel like going to a Mark Knopfler concert wearing shorts, a T‐shirt and sandals.

The Count Basie Theatre (Wikipedia: is located right at the intersection of Monmouth Street & Maple Avenue, which is the west part of Red Bank’s downtown area. At first glance at the exterior revealed nothing to be too excited about:


Had some time to kill so we were looking for a place to sit down and have a normal dinner once and for all. Just across the street, we found a place called “Eurasian Eatery”.

Fabulous dinner. If ever in the area, go there. They have dumplings worth dying for. Great meal kept me full till about 10 minutes ago (the time now is 3:49am).

Picked up the tickets from the box office—best seats in the house, front row seats 107 & 108. I had to work on a few things so I split to a nearby Starbucks (the only other cafe within walking distance, which wasn’t a Starbucks, was closed. “No Joe’s Cafe”. I liked the name) and hammered on my Netbook doing some… well… never mind.

Went back to the venue 20 minutes before the concert started. Was good to see Nancy again—she brought her son with her this time. I encourage that: bring your children to Knopfler’s shows, maybe that will make them stop listening to trash.

The theatre itself is much more impressive than last night’s venue (Boston’s Orpheum Theatre), yet not as impressive as, say, Hollywood’s Pantages. Still a good balance I think. Decent venue.


At 8:50pm, the show started.

Over the last week or so, since Mark pinched that nerve in his back, I have been receiving all sorts of emails expressing concern over Mark’s condition. Well, while he still requires some assistance walking to his chair, allow me to assure you that you should not have any concern about his performance. True, that pinched nerve did affect a few performances, but the Boston concert was a great improvement and today’s show in Red Bank was so good that you can hardly tell that Mark is under a lot of pain anymore.

Same setlist as the night before, no surprises there—although the Pensa did make it again to be played during Prairie Wedding. I mentioned yesterday that I liked that switch (according to Richard Bennett’s diary, the guitar switch was done in order to cope with the poor wiring at the Orpheum Theatre which caused some electrical buzz), sounded great today as well.

The band seemed to be in a good mood, playing very well. A very entertaining moment was during Donegan’s Gone, when the Mark & Tim “guitar talk” was suddenly stopped—along with all other instruments—giving Glenn Worf a few seconds of definite solo performance on the upright bass. Not sure if Glenn really anticipated it, he looked a bit surprised, much to the other band‐members’ pleasure (and the audience’s).

Another great story with this performance was the crowd. Cheery, dynamic crowd. Lots of people were dancing during certain songs, moving various body parts not necessarily in tempo with the music—yielding quite the entertaining sight.

Next to me, there was seated a couple, probably older than my parents (say around 60 years old), who didn’t stop moving with the music for even one second. They were totally into it, ecstatic with every minute of the show. The woman was actually so into it that her legs were actually moving in random directions, in the air, as if she’s on a pendulum. It was endearing to see such a sight. I like it when people are completely into the music.

Show ended with the usual encore and a very happy crowd.


After the show, 68℉ outside and a pleasant convertible ride to Country Inn & Suites at Newark airport, where we will base for the next four nights. We’ll do short day‐trips to NYC, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City.

Very excited about tomorrow. For once, this will be the first day during the tour which will include no driving at all—we’ll take the train from the airport directly to Penn Station. Looking forward for a day of fun in Manhattan. Already have a restaurant I need to check out, plus I’ll pay a visit to B&H to buy a camera.

Stay tuned for updates. Good night from Newark!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Concert Day: Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA (May 4, 2010)

Knowing I only have one hour to drive today, I took the morning easily. Quite nice, waking up in a small town such as Sturbridge, MA; thought I’ll have a quick breakfast, good cappuccino, and then drive easily and pleasantly to Somerville, MA—just outside of Boston (hotel prices in Boston were just too much to handle. It did, however, seem a bit lucrative to stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston, for the unbeatable price of $3,700 a night).

Sturbridge, MA is a small town that prides itself with its history. We decided to pay a visit to a local cafe called “Sturbridge Coffee Roasters”. “Nice”, I thought to myself. “Have a breakfast, and then a locally‐roasted coffee”.

Entered the place. “Hello” to the hostess, and we sat down. Waiting for service.

After about 20 minutes of listening to the only poor lady who was working there, speaking to one of the clients, we figured that we should, maybe, let her know that we’re sort of hungry. We ended up going to the cashier and place the order there.

After what seemed to be f’n forever, our long‐awaited order arrived. We both ordered something (breakfast burrito?) that had ham, salsa, cheese and eggs in it; what we ended up getting is a dry tortilla filled with scrambled eggs covered with some ugly, sticky cheese (I suspect it was Cheez‐Wiz); neither ham nor salsa, which is sort‐of what I was waiting for for the last 45 minutes.

But you know what? I don’t think anything can surprise me anymore, when it comes to restaurant standards in USA and Canada; and before you call me a “patronizing jackass”—

(a) I know;

(b) I am not saying that all restaurants suck. I am talking about the average; and

(c) Go to any country in western Europe, eat in a few restaurants and see for yourself.

Back in the car and off to Somerville we went. After a few detours caused by immensely confusing roads, we finally reached our destination—La Quinta Hotel Inn & Suites in Somerville, MA; not a walking distance from the venue (unless you’re a masochist), but close enough to public transport.

Entering the hotel, we were greeted by the nastiest hotel receptionist I ever came across. Her name was Liz and her attitude was so patronizing and disgusting that all that Jeroen and myself could do is look at each other with a huge “WTF” expression on our faces.

Packed a few things and left towards Sullivan Square, which is the nearest subway station. I decided to spend as little time in the hotel as possible, and instead pass the time in some quiet coffee place in downtown Boston. I’m too tired to walk around sight‐seeing; I should note though that it was a beautiful day. I was just too tired.

Out of the subway at the Downtown Crossing station, I went up the stairs towards Washington street and all I could see around was tall buildings, shady‐looking people and quite a bit of litter. Well, that’s normal I guess, I can’t recall exiting a subway station in a big city and seeing beauty all around. I just don’t understand why it is like this. If somebody can shed some light as to why public transportation stations are often so dirty and populated with suspicious people, please let me know.

The downtown area of Boston is decent—not too crowded (nowhere near as Chicago, for example), a bit dirty but altogether pleasant to walk around. As I was starving, I had a sandwich at Cosi (simply because it was the first place that I found, having decent food) and then proceeded to Boston Coffee Company where I spent the next few hours catching up with the world.

Half an hour before the opening act, we went to the Orpheum Theatre to collect the tickets—front row, absolute centre (this is starting to get annoying)—then split up as Jeroen went to see the opening act and I went away looking for a cafe to continue catching up with things.

Arrived at the venue about 10 minutes before the band took the stage. I was really interested to know what this concert would be like, in the light of the recent developments regarding Mark’s health condition.

The Orpheum Theatre is an old (built in 1852. Yes, over 150 years ago. Wikipedia:,_Massachusetts%29), beaten‐up, sort‐of dusty theatre. Not very impressive—not in the exterior, not in the interior; the sound, however, was decent. The reception area was quite crowded (I miss the spacious reception areas of some venues in the west coast… Eugene, Oregon being case in point) and stank from beer.


The front row seats were so close to the stage that it was very hard to avoid having my knees touching it. The band, however were about 3–4 metres away from the edge of the stage.

So what did we have there…

We had two individuals that decided to leave LP covers of Dire Straits albums (one left Dire Straits, the other left Making Movies) along with a marker, hoping for a signature (which never materialized). One of the LP’s spent the entire show on the stage (the guy just put it there at the beginning of the show). At some point I was considering taking the LP and signing it myself.

We had a surprisingly cheerful Mark. It appears as if his health condition is improving—still limping, but I have to say that he played much better today than, say, two days ago. Perhaps it’s the day off, perhaps it’s an improvement in his condition… whatever the reason is, Mark played as if he was in perfect health. The “sticky thing” discharged from his palms seemed to not matter at all this time.

We had a buzz that came from one of the amps—continuously, the entire show. The buzz’s volume increased and decreased in concert with Mark’s volume pedal’s state; the very same buzz you hear when connecting a single‐coil pickup guitar into an amp without using any sort of device to clean that buzz.

(Maybe Guy Fletcher will elaborate in his diary entry)

We had some daring, interesting solo’s during Sailing to Philadelphia and Coyote. When the time came to play Prairie Wedding, Mark was holding a Pensa guitar instead of the Telecaster he usually plays that song with; for a second I thought that there’s a setlist change, however it was Prairie Wedding again, played with a Pensa. Ha. Interesting. Sounds not bad at all.

(It’s not the same Pensa as the one used for Telegraph Road; it was this one:)


Good to have seen Mark cheerful again; clearly it affects the band as well, as they all played very well. No screw‐ups, everything going smooth… pleasant.

Hats off to the band for job well done.


The crowd was very cheery during the band’s performance; standing ovations were very frequent—sometimes even at the middle of a song. Before playing Donegan’s Gone, Mark mentioned the fact that that is the point in the show where “the bequests start arriving”; he does that in every show, and it indeed triggers further bequests by the crowd. However the difference this time was that the bequests just kept on coming. The crowd yelled different song names (of which some didn’t have anything to do with either Dire Straits or Mark Knopfler) for about a minute straight—I believe there was no song in the Dire Straits repertoire that wasn’t “bequested”.

Crowd was very happy to have the band over for a visit. That said, Jeroen informed me later that the crowd’s behaviour during Pieta Brown’s show was terribly disrespectful—“even worse than the Mashantucket experience” (quoting him). He mentioned that the crowd was so busy talking, that Jeroen could barely even understand what Pieta was singing, and at some point towards the end, Pieta turned to the crowd and asked them “come on, tell me, what is it that you all are talking about?” or something of the sort.

Show ended at 10:30pm or so; a refreshing smoothie from a nearby store, subway ride, cab ride and back to the hotel.

Tomorrow—driving to Newark, where we will base for the next 4 nights or so; then drive to Red Bank to the show.


Driving to Boston, MA (May 3, 2010)

Quite a pleasant day today. Like every Monday so far, it has been a day off for the band; next concert is tomorrow (Tuesday) in Boston, so we had two full days to make it from Alexandria, VA to Boston, MA.

Started the day with a visit in downtown Washington DC. We recalled spotting a Potbelly’s Sandwiches store right next to the venue the previous night, and decided to have breakfast there. We arrived there about an hour before opening time so we used the time to stroll around and take pictures of famous locations.


Recalling the horrendous drive south the day before, we realized that driving north to Boston, taking the seemingly shortest route (that happens to be exactly the same route we took the day before, only to the other direction), will leave us in a mental state that requires hospitalization; so we decided to take things easy, and drive an alternate route. Instead of driving through the smog, we decided to drive north towards Lancaster, PA and basically arrive to Boston through the I‐84.

I would probably never desire to drive through Lancaster, if it wasn’t for a special occasion; without going too much into detail, I have some family there—an aunt and her two kids, whom I haven’t seen in 23 years and only recently re‐connected. As my cousins were away from home, I ended up meeting with my aunt. I felt a bit sorry for only giving a 3 hours notice for this visit—I visited her at work—but I couldn’t carry the thought of driving through Lancaster and not seeing someone I have long wished to see.

That meeting made me a happier man than I already was; a lengthier visit is in order, and will take place before long. Coffee break at Starbucks in a nearby plaza and we were on our way.

Lord, was that a wise decision to take this alternate route! Oh, what a pretty drive it is, through the country‐side of Pennsylvania, all the way up to the New‐York state‐line, then to Connecticut. High hills, trees everywhere; clear‐blue skies and perfect weather for a convertible ride. Smog no more; the scent of greenery, trees and lakes helped me regain some peace of mind after yesterday’s craziness.

What a beautiful ride.

Stopped at around 6:00pm in a tiny little town called Milford, in Pennsylvania. Nestled between green hills and perfect scenery, we ended up in a place called Milford Diner. Regrettably, it was the single most disgusting dinner I had since I left for the tour, and of the least enjoyable restaurant experiences ever.

Their menu resembled a book much better than a menu. About seven (!) pages written in small font, offering whatever type of food you can think of. A rule of thumb is that the bigger the selection in a menu—the lower quality food you end up getting. A restaurant cannot offer a huge selection and still offer good quality to all of its products. It just doesn’t work that way. Most of the food ends up in the fridge waiting to be used, sometimes for days, if not weeks (in the case of meats). Good restaurants have simple, short menus.

Garbage. I feel bad even writing about that meal.

Left Milford (to never return; at least not to eat) with a little bit of headache caused by the immense amount of fat in the sauce they dumped the chicken in (they claimed it was a Masala sauce. I know Masala sauce; that wasn’t it). Was my turn to drive, and man, did I enjoy that ride. It was around 7:00pm, when the sun just begins to set. Still very sunny, bit with an orange‐ish hue over clear blue skies. Perfect temperature; I wish for more drives like that.


Stopped for the night in Quality Inn in Sturbridge, MA, about 100km away from Boston. Third of the price of a Boston hotel, without really adding anything to the amount of driving we have to make. Very quiet environment in that tiny town; tomorrow, proceeding to Boston.