Guitar legend Mark Knopfler may no longer be the man at the microphone but The Straits, featuring former members of Dire Straits, will be bringing that band’s classic songs alive again at Birmingham Symphony Hall next week.
The Straits are kicking off their first UK tour in Birmingham on Monday, October 3, 2011, featuring former Dire Straits saxophonist Chris White, guitarist Phil Palmer and keyboard player Alan Clark, along with new frontman Terence Reis on lead vocals and guitar and a group of top session musicians.
The band made its live debut at a Lord’s Taverners charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall in May, with the Daily Express enthusing about “the unique sound of Dire Straits from the next best thing”.
Now they are about to hit the road for the first time, with saxophonist Chris White excited to be playing greatest hit after greatest hit.
“You’ll hear things like Telegraph Road, Private Investigations, Brothers In Arms, Romeo & Juliet . . . all the things which formed really part of the Dire Straits tours, like the Brothers In Arms tour and the On every Street tour, most of that material, plus, there’s a little surprise in there for people as well.”
Does Chris have any favourite Dire Straits songs to play?
“I love playing on Romeo & Juliet. your Latest Trick is another great one to play. There’s a kind of breakdown thing in Sultans of Swing which I used to duet with Mark and I’m doing that with Terence now and that’s great because it goes wherever we take it every night.”
Talking of “Mark”, Dire Straits main man Knopfler has made it very clear that he isn’t interested in reforming the band himself but what does he make of the current incarnation?
“Mark has said many times that it’s not an area he is keen to revisit. He’s got his own really successful solo career,” says Chris.
“I was e-mailing Mark around the time of the charity gig and explained all that to him and he sent me an e-mail back saying ‘How great to do a charity gig and I really wish you lots of luck in anything else you do’.
“We’re doing it with respect for what’s been achieved and what Mark achieved. We’re not trying to change anything.
“That initially was the biggest challenge, can we do it without him? Which is why we were so fortunate to come across Terence. When that happened, the first time he started playing and singing I remember just standing there and thinking this is meant to be.
“Alan started looking around and stumbled across Terence. he saw him online doing something with his own band, Water Horse, and just thought, crikey that guy sounds just like Mark.
“So Terence agreed to demo a couple of Straits tunes and he bears an uncanny resemblance, without trying. The incredible thing was that you think well we can maybe find someone to sing like him but he plays like him too.
“And that was just because Terence grew up in Maputo, Mozambique, where the street musician style is a finger picking style, so as a kid he picked up that style from the local guys and that’s what Mark plays.”
Fans will be able to make their own minds up at Symphony Hall but the reaction at the Royal Albert Hall was more than positive.
Chris says: “It was a very humbling experience and the reception was phenomenal, just like back in ’85. it really was incredible. and as a result of that people said ‘Can you come and do some more?’
“We did a festival in Europe where we supported The Eagles and the same thing happened. There’s a very loyal fan base for Dire Straits and that music and clearly people still want to hear it.”
Chris still, however, rues the day he had to turn down appearing on Dire Straits biggest-selling album.
“I was working with Mark from about ’83 on various projects. he then said in ’84 will you come and record, we’re going to do this particular album and tour next year, which was Brothers In Arms.
“Unfortunately I was committed to doing a jazz album with this little jazz band I was working with at the time, so I couldn’t do the Brothers In Arms album. I’ve always worked that if I said yes to something I did it.
“It would have been nice to have been on Brothers In Arms but I did the tour, which was fantastic, including Live Aid, which was incredible. it was just incredibly exciting – it was also my 30th birthday that day so that was pretty special.
“It was just great, a brilliant event. The Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert was like that too. That felt very much the same.
“And at Live Aid we were actually in the middle of a run of Dire Straits gigs across the car park (at Wembley Arena). We did our set at Live Aid and then wandered across there and had something to eat and did our own gig.”
- The Straits play Birmingham Symphony Hall on Monday, October 3, 2011. Tickets cost £39.50, £29.50 and £19.50 plus fees.
- Visit thestraits.com