Grand Rapids, Michigan

Van Andel Arena

November 12, 2012

[Don Ely]

Review by Don Ely

Van Andel Arena is a reasonably new venue that is home ice to the Grand
Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. With labor strife currently
in fire-belching dragon mode in the NHL I'm sure hockey-starved fans from
around the state come here to witness some quality matches and get their
winter fix. On the musical side many touring acts check Van Andel on their
itineraries, as has Bob Dylan previously, and Bruce Springsteen, whose
stop on the 2005 Devils and Dust Tour was pressed up and presented nicely
by Crystal Cat Records on their " Grand Rapids Night " release. I got a
ticket at the gate and settled in for Mark Knopfler's set. I'd been
anticipating this since Bob's European tour last fall, realizing there
would be a good chance he'd employ Mr. Knopfler as his opener stateside at
some point this year. I've been a big fan of Mark's guitar work since the
early days of Dire Straits and had never seen him in concert; his licks
also graced Dylan's Slow Train Coming lp, recorded at Muscle Shoals in
1979 ( the second location at 1000 Alabama Avenue on the banks of the
Tennessee River ) and the first new Dylan record I ever bought. Mark
Knopfler played a brilliant mix of rock, blues, country flavors, and
Celtic-inspired folk that squeezed every drop of talent from his great
octet of multi-instrumentalists hailing far and wide from Scotland to
Wales, from Long Beach to Wisconsin. Knopfler employed several different
guitars, the band switched toys from number to number, paring down to a
five-piece or even trio as a song warranted. Reading Boblinks reviews of
last fall's tour my expectations were guarded about the performance, but
these reservations were shattered. I knew none of the material, save for
one, but the songs ranged from hard-driving to starkly beautiful. I was
really impressed, as were the rest of the audience based on their
response, and now having seen Mark Knopfler I want to investigate his
music further to see what I've been missing. His latest album,
Privateering, may be the place to begin. The one ditty I did recognize, of
course, was the sole encore, " So Far Away " from the top-selling Dire
Straits lp Brothers In Arms. That period of the band was never my favorite
( though they did employ drummer Terry Williams, ex-Man and ex-Rockpile )
but as we all know they were huge with the MTV generation. Nonetheless it
was a fine way to end an exhilarating performance.

Soon it was time for the headliner. The show was nowhere near a sellout,
in fact the entire upper level was closed off and the stage was moved up
by at least a third. My seat was along the outer curve of the lower bowl,
with excellent sightlines and surprisingly good sound given the distance.
Nice acoustics in a larger hall is not something to be taken for granted
regardless of ticket price. Stu Kimball led the charge to the killing
floor by strumming acoustic rather than electric, and Bob Dylan and his
band of merry men were off with a snappy " You Ain't Goin' Nowhere ", as
crisp as fresh celery. It was good to receive a less-common opener, though
Bob does seem to be rotating those pretty well once again. After that
Basement Tape the stage went dark, and when the lights came up, there was
Mark Knopfler! Earlier in this tour he was joining Bob onstage on fewer
numbers if at all, so I was pleased to see him accompany the band on four
songs. His presence bolsters an already great group of players, and
Knopfler peeled off some nice leads during his stint. " It's All Over Now,
Baby Blue " sparkled at no. 2, and the sped-up arrangement of " Things
Have Changed " and especially " Tangled Up In Blue " both benefitted from
the extra guitar. After " Rollin' And Tumblin' " Mark left the stage and
headed for the next joint. At no. 6 an abbreviated " Visions Of Johanna ",
and though there were few surprises in the setlist ( actually none ) the
rest of the way, this was yet another enjoyable evening of songs from the
world's greatest catalog. " Spirit On The Water " was sublime, and I've
finally come to appreciate the current arrangement of " Mississippi "
while still preferring the original. Naturally there was hope against hope
that Bob would ( gasp! ) actually unveil a selection from his BRAND NEW
COLLECTION CALLED TEMPEST, but this was not to be. Perhaps tomorrow night.
Maybe somebody needs to tell Bob he's got a new album out! Further down on
the wish list would be songs he's been performing this tour that I haven't
seen before, such as " Joey ", " Delia ", or " Dignity ", but none of
those made the cut either. I do enjoy the way " Like A Rolling Stone "
follows " Ballad Of A Thin Man " without a break; after you wipe the spit
off your face from the former it's a pleasant afterglow to hear the

Beautiful city, beautiful night. What more could a roving gambler ask for?

Don Ely
Rochester, MI    


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