Mark Knopfler at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Tuesday 22 July 2008
Mark Knopfler could be the poster child for modesty, if such a thing weren't a complete contradiction. At his sold-out show Tuesday at Wolf Trap, everything about him was understated, from his vocals (a mellow murmur) to his outfit (jeans and a button-down shirt) to his stage chatter (he addressed the crowd only to introduce his six-piece backing band and to give the occasional thank you between songs). Even his guitar solos were unassuming; his deft finger-picking style is certainly impressive (especially on "Sultans of Swing"), but Knopfler didn't draw attention to it or flaunt any flashy rock-star moves. He just played the show.
That strategy made the evening even more compelling: His skill and style were apparent without the distraction of gimmicks or ostentation. It didn't hurt that he's surrounded himself with equally talented musicians. The interplay among violin, upright bass and Knopfler's guitar was the highlight of "Marbletown," as the three musicians drew out an extended decrescendo that lingered in its whispered plucking before eventually growing back to full volume.
Knopfler's voice was so deep and calm that he always sounded as if he were about to unveil a secret, particularly on the narrative "Sailing to Philadelphia" and on Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet." At times he was a bit too understated (his vocals should have been higher in the mix, especially in the first half of the show), but the number of standing ovations he received in the two-hour set indicated that the crowd didn't need showmanship to recognize his talent.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 24 July 2008; Page C12