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Monday, September 17, 2007

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - Under the stars over Berkeley

MK+EHberkeley 2006IF YOU'RE in the market for a duet partner, Emmylou Harris should be right at the top of your list.
She has dueted memorably with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and even Dave Matthews and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. Heck, Harris is so masterful she could probably even make a duet with Britney Spears sound good (not that we necessarily want to hear that).
So it's no surprise that former Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler has been pursuing Harris for about a decade.
Their paths finally crossed during the taping of a Chet Atkins TV special, and for the last seven years, whenever their busy schedules allowed, Knopfler and Harris have been stealing studio time to record duets. The end result, "All the Roadrunning," is a satisfying album, and Knopfler and Harris are an unlikely but wonderfully matched pair. To support "Roadrunning," the duo hit the road in May and concluded their tour in front of a sold-out crowd at Berkeley's Greek Theatre. With a crescent moon shining directly above the stage, Knopfler and Harris spent nearly two blissful hours working through an 19- song set that drew from their new album and their respective solo careers.
They kicked off with two songs from "Roadrunning," "Right Now" and "Red Staggerwing," both of which show off the undeniably appealing blend of Knopfler's bass growl of a voice and Harris' sweet, edgy soprano. These openers also demonstrated that Knopfler and Harris were fronting a pretty incredible band that included Knopfler's former Dire Straits bandmates Danny Cummings on drums and Guy Fletcher on keyboards. This being a Knopfler show, of course, guitars are going to feature prominently, but a definite audience favorite was fiddler Stuart Duncan, who also plays a mean mandolin. Pianist Matt Rollings livened things up as well -- especially on the Cajun-spiced "Born to Run" (by Paul Kennerly, not Springsteen) -- with his accordion, and bassist Glenn Wolf shifted between electric and acoustic instruments. MK+EHberkeley 2006_2Knopfler's extraordinary guitar playing was a constant and compelling facet of the show, and his duets with guitarist Richard Bennett, most notably on "I Dug Up a Diamond," managed to seamlessly blend rock, country and blues. The music that filled the Greek on Friday defied definitive labels because it had one foot firmly in rock territory and one dancing through the realm of country and blues. A Knopfler solo on "Song for Sonny Liston" was pure blues, while Harris' solos on "Red Dirt Girl" and "Boulder to Birmingham" were country at its most sublime. And then there were decidedly rock moments like the Dire Straits song "Romeo and Juliet" and "Speedway at Nazareth" from Knopfler's solo career. The cheesy light show -- with the smoke machines in overdrive to compete with the evening breezes -- was definitely more befitting a rock show. In fact, the lights were so crazy during "Speedway" that it might as well have been the Rolling Stones onstage. Another reason for complaint was the sound mix on Harris' solo vocals. The sharper edges of her voice were much too present in the mix and made her vocals sound unnecessarily ragged. The simpler the presentation, the better the concert. During the first encore, the lights calmed down, and the back wall of the stage turned into a field of stars as Harris and Knopfler joined voices on the Dire Straits hit "So Far Away" and Knopfler's "Our Shangri-La." The simplicity increased during the second encore when they performed the new album's best song, "If This is Goodbye," which Knopfler wrote after reading an Ian McEwan essay written in the days following 9/11. The evening's final number had Knopfler and Harris by themselves with only their guitars in hand to sing Dire Straits' wistful, "Why Worry." MK+EHberkeley 2006_3Just the sound of their voices and their instruments made you wish for moments as intimate and musically perfect as this one. But as they sang a few songs earlier, "It's the end of a perfect day... This is all the heaven we've got, right here where we are in our Shangri-La." Like a whole evening of Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, a little Shangri-La really is heaven enough.

From ANG Newspapers by Chad Jones … Sorry No time to ask for permission.

Concert Review found with: ........

Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris - Berkeley 2006


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