Thursday, October 6, 2011

Concert Day: The O₂, Dublin, Ireland (October 6, 2011)

Most of yesterday (October 5) was spent unwinding in Jeroen’s apartment in Delft; I needed that, to get my senses together after a terribly disappointing visit to Amsterdam the day before (I wrote about it but haven’t posted yet). I don’t know if it’s me getting old or what, but I find myself nowadays needing a tad bit more than my own internal drive in order to get up and travel.

Or maybe it’s the jet lag speaking, I don’t know.

Left Delft at peak hour, around 5:00pm. Carrying a heavy backpack in a train full of people (having to stand most of the time) was no picnic at all and by the time we arrived at Schiphol Airport, I was already sweating like an Oklahoma pig farmer.

Quick check-in, baggage drop-off, and even a quicker dinner and I really needed some coffee. It’s always a good thing to have a few coffee bars in Schiphol Airport, open 24 hours. Except, of course, when they’re closed:

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Two ladies were passing by, noticing my amazement at this ingeniously-stupid sign, and started laughing.

—“I really need my coffee”, I said.

—“Well, sorry… that’s a really funny sign”, said one of them.

My big mouth came into action.

—“Is there good coffee where you’re going to? I’ll go anywhere”, I begged.

—“Well, I’m going to the toilet so this might not work out” came the answer, leaving me in the ruins. Life 1, Isaac 0.

Found a coffee place at some point, disgusting as only the feet of twelve mighty ogres can be. Quick walk to the gate, boarding and the flight left on time. Slightly over two hours later, clock was set one hour earlier and we arrived in Dublin.


Dublin has always been one of the cities I look forward to visiting. Following the repulsive Amsterdam experience from the night before, I was looking forward for some fresh air, fresh colours, fresh faces…

Quick cab ride took us to Charles Stewart Guesthouse, a hotel (well, more like a glorified B&B) very close to the famous Spire of Dublin. Small room, unappealing to most senses but I suppose €50 a night can’t buy happiness in this city. Bloody freezing outside, the heat didn’t work (according to the owner, the heating in this hotel works exactly one hour every day—between 7pm and 8pm. Stupid? yeah, tell me about it), noise from outside… not the greatest housing experience of my life. Still, I was tired as a dog so I didn’t care much.


I sometimes wake up a few times at night—usually when I’m stressed—and last night was one of them. Feeling a bit bored, I reached to my BlackBerry and went on some Israeli news site to see what’s new with the world and verify that my home country isn’t involved in yet another war. Then I see a large picture of one Mr. Steve Jobs holding an iPhone. Before reading the headline, I thought to myself “oh. So he did present some iPhone 5 after all”, only to scroll down and read that the man split the earth and is no longer with us.

I’m not an Apple fan at all—for many reasons—yet I felt sorry for Steve Jobs’ death. A truly admirable individual with tons of charisma and talent; if you haven’t listed to his 2005 Stanford address, perhaps it’s time that you do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc. May he rest in peace.


A significantly unappealing breakfast in the hotel went by quickly as we went on our quest to explore Temple Bar for a bit, passing, on our way, near the Spire.

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Nada. It was early Thursday morning, almost no living soul on the streets. Tourism season is over already and man, is Dublin boring when it’s empty.

A huge teapot, in a nice place called “Brick Alley Café”, wreaked havoc in my bladder for the entire bloody day (up to and including the show; mental note to self—avoid over-consuming tea in convert days).

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Bored, we decided to leverage the good weather and travel to Howth, a beautiful fishing village some 30 minutes away from Dublin.

I had first visited Howth during the Get Lucky tour (see post here) and it was good to get back and reminisce. Wind was cruel, making walking on the pier tricky and painful, but what wouldn’t I do to catch a good glimpse at the water? nothing.

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That coat saved me. Very cold outside with murderous winds.

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Another short visit to Howth’s town centre, lunch and back to Dublin. Excitement grew as show time neared.


The tickets said 8:00pm was the show’s starting time; the venue’s website suggested 7:30pm so we decided to take no risks and leave early. Delicious meal at Flanagan’s and we went walking towards the venue, The O₂. It’s a long, 2.5km walk in bad winds and cold, drizzly weather. At times it felt like the walk isn’t going to end. Eventually it did though, and at 6:45pm we arrived at the venue as people were only starting to arrive.

Shortly before the concert, an email from MarkKnopfler.com suggested that this specific tour carries a strict “no photography” rule. Bizarre as Mark has traditionally never minded still cameras in his shows (as long as they’re used in moderation). Anyway, we decided to not risk it and kept the camera at home. If anybody has pictures of the venue’s surroundings or interior, from before or after the show, please email them to me and I will embed them here (of course, along with credits). Photos from the actual concert will not be displayed here, respecting the band’s wishes.

Seats: front row, a few seats to the right of the absolute center. Traditionally my preferred spot, facing Richard Bennett, so my complaint list was rather empty. It felt weird being in a concert venue again, even though I spent four months in my life last year jumping from one concert to another.

It was, really, a weird feeling. But at 7:45pm, as the lights went out and the band took the stage, it wasn’t weird anymore.

It was natural.

They are here again.


So, what did we have here… lets see.

First, we had a standing Knopfler; during last year’s tour (the day before the Ann Arbor show), Mark pulled a nerve in his back forcing him to be playing seated for the remainder of the tour; good to see that everything’s back to normal.

Two new (well, one new and one old-new) band members, Jim Cox on keyboard and Ian Thomas on drums. Stage set-up wasn’t too much different than the ordinary, nothing appeared amiss.

What was, however, strange and new was the guitar Mark was holding. It’s the first time ever that I see a cyan (was it cyan? pretty sure, yes) coloured Gibson Les-Paul. Capo on the fifth fret and off we went to a rocking start. Some references to Ireland during the song made some audience members laugh as if they were happy that Mark speaks “their language”.

Second song also a rocking one (I should tell you that there was not even a short pause during the entire set; the band members were not introduced) and then came song number three.

Song number three got me a bit confused as I have never seen this instrument setup before. Mark held the same guitar he uses to play Donegan’s Gone (is it the Danelectro?) along with a slider and boom we went for a third rocking song in a row, a song I had never heard before.

So then I started contemplating whether this is a tribute to Bob Dylan (i.e. the band playing a Bob Dylan cover) or are we actually witnessing a song from the new upcoming album? A minute or so into the song I figured that this isn’t likely to be a cover of anything, but a Mark Knopfler original. So yes, folks: the upcoming album has some good rock n’ roll news. I seem to recall the words “Ain’t it pretty?” peppered along the chorus; I may be mistaken.

A couple of more songs I have heard before and then… interesting. Another previously-unseen instruments’ layout. Everybody’s gone acoustic and Mike McGoldrick sitting with the uilleann pipes; and that, for me, was the pinnacle of the evening.

—“We’re very happy to be here… this is also a chance to play some of the new stuff. This one is called ‘Privateering’” and the band went ahead to play this amazing dramatic piece (in C minor). I was literally set hypnotized in my seat, gazing at Richard’s and Mark’s guitar work through the entire performance of this song. If the upcoming album has more songs like this one, then we’re definitely talking about a winner.

Remember that name. “Privateering” (no, it’s not “Private Hearing” and not “Privateers” as some people asked me over email). It’s wonderful.

A few more songs were played and I noticed something interesting. Time was running out for the band’s part and still no Dire Straits songs being played. Indeed, the show ended (after about one hour and ten minutes) with no Dire Straits tracks on the set, which for me is great news. Not that I don’t like Dire Straits’ material (Brothers in Arms is my all-time favourite and I’ll definitely miss Telegraph Road) but the post-Straits material, in my mind, is worthier of live performances.

After an hour and ten minutes, Mark bid the audience goodbye and the band left the stage. Nobody got up as I’m sure everybody was expecting an encore; imagine our surprise, then, when the lights turned on and Bob Dylan’s crew started rearranging the stage for Bob’s performance.

That was it, then. 70 minutes show, followed by about half an hour break, followed by a Bob Dylan concert (which I will not cover here). A joint encore didn’t happen and by 10:30pm or so, it was all over.


Millions of people on their way to the tram going back; huge traffic jams so we decided to walk back. Cold, drizzly night and it was good to be back in this extremely cold room (there’s a draft from the window). Sitting on my bed signing off this post at 1:50am.

Tomorrow will be a short day in Dublin; flight to Glasgow departs at 4:00pm.

Stay tuned for more updates,
Isaac

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your blog Isaac. I look forward to following you on this tour. I was wondering if there were people filing in the door during MKs set as happens for most 'warm-up' acts or if everyone is pretty well seated when MK starts his set? Cheers, Russell. Adelaide SA. PS It would be nice if you could mention the songs played, even if you listed them in no particuar order.

Darryl said...

Thanks Isaac - a wonderful review of your day in Dublin (and further) and your personal comments are always welcome.

I thought Mark would be playing with Dylan on one or two tunes - ie. some of the Infidels stuff - surprising (to me) that they did not play together.

Great news about the "new" tunes coming out ... looking forward to crossing the pond for the next MK tour - don't think I'll go to Dublin at this time of the year ...

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Isaac, what a joy to read back your comments so complete and witty! Renato and I were hoping to find you on the blog on this new adventure and we've catered for you :-)) Thanks and good luck.
Anna and Renato

Anonymous said...

hi isaac
just discovered youre blogs,superb