The Dire Straits Experience is quite an experience indeed. With original band members Chris White (saxophone) and Chris Whitten (drums), it occupies a space between professional tribute gig and the real thing, providing a wonderful celebration for fans of the band. And with Mark Knopfler very much focused on his solo work these days (and unlikely to tour here any time soon), the show fills a much needed gap, giving these songs a timely and adroit airing.
Of course it wouldn’t work at all without someone to carry out Knopfler duties, and Terence Reis does an incredible job here. As when the act toured in 2014, Reis remains a perfect fit, recreating the distinctive guitar tones and vocal stylings of the former Dire Straits frontman.
What is noticeable on this tour, however, is how Reis is enjoying greater freedom improvising with his guitar. The signature licks are still there, but around them he adds his own flavour. Both he and the rest of the ensemble recognise that one of the great strengths of the original band was how the music grew in live performance through arrangements constantly expanding on the album recordings.
In fact, the musicianship on display from this outfit on Friday night was quite something to behold: searing solos, the interplay between the instruments, terrific dynamics and slick transitions.
The set-list was a real crowd-pleaser, covering all the band’s hits and few forgotten numbers (‘Lady Writer, ‘Expresso Love’ and ‘The Man’s Too Big’ for example). There were multiple highlights, including big numbers like ‘Telegraph Road’ to open the night, ‘Private Investigations’ and ‘Sultans of Swing’, the final solo section of which was just mind blowing.
Her Majesty’s was a great venue for the show, with the packed out audience in high spirits, many of whom were clearly revisiting that seminal Football Park gig in 1986.
The band has promised to keep coming back as long as there is an audience for this show; from the enthusiastic signs on Friday night, indications are that The Dire Straits Experience should certainly be back here a few more times yet!
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor