Mark Knopfler “Privateering” – Live in Budapest, 22/06/2013


Let me get state this right off the bat: I’ve made no secret in the past that this is a highly subjective blog. I am in no way an authority on music; I’m just passionate about this art form when it’s done right.

“The Music and Myth” is not merely a review blog; it’s more of a place where I try to promote the music I love and where I write about my experience with a certain piece of music, musician or performance.  You’re not going to get hateful reviews of how much a certain Avril Lavigne record sucked because I just don’t take the time to write about poor quality music

The records and artists I do write about are some that I already love and have a great opinion of much to the dismay of people who would like to read cynical and mock-intellectual reviews that try to put down certain artists and records. That’s just not me. When it comes to music, if I can’t say something good about it then I’d rather not write about it at all (though I’m sure a blog full of hate and poison would get ten times more views).

Anyway, the reason I’m starting my article with this little disclaimer is the fact that this weekend I got to see Mark Knopfler live in Budapest at the Laszlo Papp arena as part of his Privateering tour. If you know me at all you will know that I’ve been a huge fan of Mark’s for fifteen years and that getting to see him in concert was always on my “bucket list” so I’m not the right guy to make a subjective comment about the quality and structure of the concert. Hell, he could have spent two hours playing Bulgarian folk songs and I would still have gone home happy such is my love and admiration for this man. Still, I’ll try to keep this review as objective and professional as I possibly can.

When it comes to Mark I’m a fan of everything he did, from his Dire Straits era (both the “Sultans of Swing” and the “Brothers in Arms” incarnation of DS) to his solo work. I’m definitely not one of the people who expect to see a new Dire Straits record out any time soon only to be left disappointed and in the past I’ve likened those people to the unfortunate souls who think disco is coming back or that Elvis is still alive. In fact, I’m very fond of Mark’s solo work and, on my review of Privateering, I wrote that the record “again goes to prove that while Mark’s biggest hits came in his Dire Straits-past his best music and most interesting stories belong to the present.” It is with this mindset that I’ve attended the concert and it’s because of this mindset that I’ve enjoyed it so much. In fact, for a tour designed to promote the record the concert had a little bit of everything.

I was a bit surprised by the fact that there was no opening act and when, all of a sudden, Mark and the gang appeared on stage I was completely caught off guard. The aforementioned “gang” consisted of Richard Bennett (guitar), Guy Fletcher (keyboards), Jim Cox (piano, organ, accordion), Michael McGoldrick (whistles, uilleann pipes), John McCusker (violin, cittern), Glenn Worf (bass), and Ian Thomas (drums) – who made an excellent impresson on me.


They went right to work starting the set with “What It Is”, Mark’s undisputable anthem of the post-Dire-Straits-era and a perfect song to get the crowd in the mood. They continued with “Corned Beef City”, one of only three songs they played from the new record (the others were “Privateering” and “I Used to Could”). I was surprised that they only played three of the generous twenty tracks from Privateering but I have to say I was also happy about that in a way. Since it’s my first time seeing Mark live I was glad that the selection of songs he played was more varied. Now, regarding “Corned Beef City” and “I Used to Could” I went on record saying that I’m not necessarily a big fan of his blues-influenced tracks (which abound on the new album) but I have to admit that they make for some great live performances. As far as “Privateering” is concerned, I think it’s one of the best songs of his solo career and it sounds just as good live as it does on CD.

I was happy that we got to hear “Song for Sonny Liston” which I love and especially “I Dug up a Diamond”, a song that has a very special meaning to my wife and me for reasons that have everything to do with our wedding and the wedding DVD. Since he doesn’t always play these two songs on the Privateering tour I think we were most fortunate to get to enjoy them live (and in case you were wondering, they were awesome!)

The combination of “Father and Son” and “Hill Farmer’s Blues” was very emotional and a feel-good moment for band interaction as was “Postcards from Paraguay” while “Speedway at Nazareth” was absolutely intense. I’ve always stated that Mark’s greatest value as a guitarist is in the fact that he never gave into the temptation of putting the instrument before the song, a common fault of many of the world’s greatest guitarists. One of the most celebrated and innovative guitar-players in the world Mark has always been wise enough to never feature his instrument beyond what a certain song calls for, making him a storyteller first and a guitarist second, a most fortunate quality in a songwriter. “Speedway” is a song in which you get to witness Mark in full guitar-god mode while never taking away from the story of the song which is a rare and precious occurrence in music.

The Dire Straits nostalgia moments were provided by “Romeo and Juliet” and “Telegraph Road”, the latter being the set’s closing track, an excellent choice. If I’ve managed to maintain a degree of objectivity and professionalism so far it all flies out the window now that I write about “Telegraph Road”. The song is not only one of my favorite MK/DS tunes but one of my absolute favorite songs of all time and I’ve been in love with this track for fifteen years with a love that never once waned. To experience it live was as though I got to relive the last fifteen years of my life in ten minutes, with all its incredible ups and abysmal downs, an emotional roller-coaster ride that I cannot compare with any other musical experience I’ve lived so far and one that I think represents the pinnacle of what music can achieve.

After leaving the stage and leaving behind a roaring crowd the band quickly returned for an encore consisting of “Our Shangri-La” and “So Far Away”. I’ve heard someone complain that it wasn’t “Sultans of Swing” or “Brothers in Arms” but, as a person who tries to understand the structure and mindset behind performing music, I can understand the decision. While I would have also liked to have heard those classics I am not at all disappointed with the encore that featured two powerful and very sentimental tracks.

In its entirety, the concert was a display of perfect professionalism from one of the music industry’s few veritable gentlemen. Musically, it was irreproachable and my only disappointment was the structure of the stage, namely the lack of a screen. We had great seats but, even so, it would have been nice to have a screen showing close-ups of the band performing. I’m not sure who is responsible for this aspect of the performance, whether it was the guys at the Laszlo Papp Arena or Mark’s own staff but that’s one thing that I would have liked to have seen. Still, only a minor gripe in what was otherwise an incredibly positive experience.

There is something to be said about experiencing excellent musicians live and when it is someone whose work you’ve been listening to and who you’ve been looking up to for a decade and a half the experience is incomparable. As a citizen of a country that has only recently gained a more dynamic mindset when it comes to seeing their favorite performers live I’m a bit sad that I haven’t attended more such concerts in my life and I’ve made it a point to see Mark perform any chance I get. It is most certainly worth it!

Hey everyone, if you like my articles on The Music and Myth, perhaps you will also enjoy my novel Mindguard. You can find it exclusively on Amazon.

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Secrets of Sadness: 4 Songs That Will Make You Completely Lose Your Shit

So here’s the deal with being a writer: if you want to do it properly you need to be able to share. Even if you’re generally a person that is kept to him- or herself, even if you don’t do hugs and you choke when you try to tell someone you love them. Even supposing you don’t talk about your feelings and the general reply to “what’s wrong” is a cold, distant “nothing”. You can be all that in your private life and it’s all fine and well but every single time you write you pour your heart out even if you won’t admit it.

I generally write humor so I’m a far cry from a Herta Muller (thank God), a Victor Hugo (though he could be hilarious at times) or even a Stephen “Don’t Call Me Steven” King. And yet, behind every dick joke and every witty comment is a part of who I am, what I feel and what I’ve been through in life. You need only look a tad bit closer and it will become readily apparent. Anyway, so…like it or not as a writer your feelings are often on public display. You can try to hide that if you don’t worry about writing crap or you can try to embrace it even at the risk of being ridiculed. So here I am embracing it for the sake of writing a decent opener for this blog entry.

Do you know what I’ve been doing for the past half hour, tough guy that I am? I’ve been crying like a little baby, that’s what. Why have I been crying like some pansy you ask amidst fits of laughter? Well, it’s because I’ve just finished the first draft of my first novel and found that, far from being exciting and exhilarating it is an event that left me sad and emotionally drained. Like saying goodbye to a loved one. Surprising, I know, especially since it’s a freakin’ humor novel. Anyway, as I was sobbing like a wimp making Charles Bukowski spin in his grave I decided to play a few of my favorite sob-songs. These are songs that (to me) are so emotional that I generally avoid them for the sole reason that they bring me to tears every time. But, since I was “in Rome” anyway I thought – what the heck – and played them all. Now I want to tell you about them, about four of the saddest songs I’ve come across. If you are a human being, with a soul and feelings and all these are the four songs that are guaranteed to make you lose your shit:

If You Could Read My Mind by Johnny Cash

Originally penned and recorded by Gordon Lightfoot, this song about disappointment and the difficulty of interpersonal communication is covered by Johnny Cash in his brilliant American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways. By this time the wear-and-tear could be felt in the voice of the aging Cash but its frailty made it all the more powerful. It was a time when he covered songs like “Solitary Man”, “Personal Jesus”, “In My Life” and “Hurt” and turned them into irrefutable anthems. This one is not so well-known but the combination of some very beautiful lyrics and the honesty and sensitivity with which he delivers them is absolutely endearing. He sings:

When you reach the part where the heartaches come

The hero would be me

But heroes often fail

And you won’t read that book again

Because the ending’s just too hard to take

The listener is already mellowed by these lyrics, his emotions ripe for the picking when Johnny says:

I never thought I could act this way

But I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it

I don’t know where we went wrong

But the feeling’s gone

And I just can’t get it back

Enter tears!

If This is Goodbye by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

In one of the most inspired duets in recent memory former rock titan and Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler teams up with the charming and lovely country chanteuse Emmylou Harris to produce the excellent All The Roadrunning. Though the record offers many memorable tracks there is one that stands out amongst them all and that is “If This Is Goodbye”

Your bright shining sun

Would light up the way before me

You were the one

That made me feel I could fly

And I love you, whatever is waiting for me

If this is goodbye, if this is goodbye

The lyrics were inspired by the final words of some of the 9-11 victims, words that had, in many cases, been hastily sent via text message to their loved ones mere minutes before their death. If that does not move you to tears then I sure hope the wizard grants you a heart Tin-Man. When they sing…

Who knows how long we’ve got

And what we’re made up of

Who knows if there’s a plan or not, there is our love

I know there is our love

…I believe it creates one of the most beautiful and sad moments in music history.

Green Green Grass of Home by Porter Waggoner

Green Green Grass of Home is a country classic written by Claude “Curly” Puttman Jr and sung by everyone and their mother. Elvis, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and so on and so forth have covered this song and every version is more heartbreaking then the next. I’ve chosen the version of Porter Waggoner which, if my memory doesn’t fail me, is probably one of the first. The song is about a man returning to his childhood home after a very long time to find that nothing has changed and everyone awaits his arrival with joy:

Yes, they’ve all come to see me

Arms areached, smiling sweetly

It’s so good to touch the green green grass of home

Ofcourse, the song would not be one of music’s finest tearjerkers if it all ended well so the man wakes up to find that he is in a cell serving a death sentence and he realizes that he was only dreaming and the only way he will ever get home again will be in a casket.

Yes they’ll all come to see me

In the shade of that old oak tree

As they lay me neath the green green grass of home

If you too sometimes remember a childhood that will never return again or people and places that have been lost to you then I have two words:

Cue crying!

Green Grass by Tom Waits

Incidentally another “grass” song and this one makes the previous song sound like a lullaby. Written by none other than the brilliant Tom Waits and his equally brilliant wife Kathleen Brennan this song, undoubtedly one of his grandest “weepers” speaks of death and loss…from the point of view of the dead.

Lay your head where my heart used to be

Feel the Earth above me

Lay down in the green grass

Remember when you loved me

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when this song brings you to tears as it’s an emotional roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Tom’s rough, old whiskey-voice adds to the mystique of the performance and, just like in the case of Johnny Cash, the “scratches” and “imperfections” of the voice do nothing but add power to the message. My favorite lyrics?

You’ll never be free of me

He’ll make a tree from me

Don’t say goodbye to me

Describe the sky to me

And if the sky falls, mark my words

We’ll catch mockingbirds

So here are four songs that bring me to tears every single time and they will probably do the same for you if you are as passionate and emotionally involved in music as I am.  We live in a day and age when sadness is seen as an undesirable emotion and instead we chase cheap chuckles (you see what I did there) and low-brow humor instead. But let’s not forget what these brilliant songwriters are trying to teach us: that melancholy and sadness have their purpose in life and can often be very cathartic.

Hey everyone, if you like my articles on The Music and Myth, perhaps you will also enjoy my novel Mindguard. You can find it exclusively on Amazon.

Mindguard Cover