DALLAS -- The world is awash in guitarists but only a relative few have a sound that sets them apart. Mark Knopfler is one of them, his singularly lean and liquid style -- which can evoke both love and loneliness in equal measure -- having first caught the worlds ear in Dire Straits with Sultans of Swing back in 1979.
That sound remains remarkable and it can still galvanize as Knopfler showed Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre in a sold-out performance that struggled to shoehorn his sprawling career into two hours. On that latter score, it failed -- there was just too much notable work that went unplayed -- but when a discography stretches over 36 years with more than 20 albums (including soundtracks and collaborations), well, the faithful are bound to go home just a little disappointed.
Backed by an expert seven-piece band and blessed with a pristine sound mix, Knopfler began his set in rather unassuming fashion, with two affable songs -- Broken Bones and Corned Beef City -- that dont rank with his best work. Things picked up with the moody Privateering but really sparked about halfway through from an impressive version of Your Latest Trick through the love song Romeo and Juliet, a rocking Sultans of Swing, an exquisite Postcards from Paraguay, a punchy Marbletown, a sizzling Speedway at Nazareth, and an absolutely knockout take on the epic Telegraph Road.
Though Knopflers voice is distinctive, he has never been the worlds best singer and his style is more talk-sing these days. His laid-back manner, while friendly and sometimes jokey, doesnt set the stage on fire. But thats not what his fans come for. They want to hear his fluid fretwork and, on that score, he delivered.
Sure, especially since he comes to this part of the planet so rarely, it would have been great to hear such classics as What It Is, Tunnel of Love, Darling Pretty, Brothers in Arms, On Every Street, or even newer tracks like Beryl instead of some of the more middling songs that he chose.
But that hes still capable of summoning the magic as often as he did Saturday is something to be thankful for.