There are many questions that can be asked to get a conversation going: Which historical figures would you invite to a dinner party? Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry? Who do you get to use your “Get Out of Jail Free” card(s) with? Ginger or Mary Ann? (Or for the ladies, the Skipper, Gilligan, Mr. Howell or the Professor?) If you were stuck on a desert island, which book(s) would you want to have with you? Or whose music?
The music question has become more important for me in recent years. I’d stopped following a lot of music from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, being more committed to building a career, among other things. But both Rick and I started getting back into music again, really, with the first post-Hurricane Katrina Jazz Fest (which is a lot more than jazz — thank goodness — since jazz is not at all my thing) we returned to in New Orleans. That became the first of 7? 8? (and counting) consecutive trips, including one I booked on a day’s notice because I wanted to see the subdudes. And we go to a lot of live shows in the DC area, as well as taking the occasional road trip.
For me and Rick, when answering the Desert Island Music question, our Venn Diagrams intersect at Mark Knopfler (best known from Dire Straits, but who has a very productive solo career). We have a tacit understanding that if MK’s tours don’t take him to the DC area, we will travel for a show. So it is that we found ourselves going to Las Vegas for 26 hours to catch a show that is part of a very limited West Coast tour. As it turns out, our last live show before sailing off to our Desert Islands (the Bahamas) was to see our Desert Island artist in the Nevada desert.
Of course, if we’d known at the time we booked the trip to Vegas that I would be starting my sabbatical a week later, I’m not sure whether I’d still have done it. But having scored front row seats for the show, I couldn’t resist. As it was, Rick flew home from Charleston on Thursday (Calypso only having arrived there the day before) only to turn around to fly to Vegas on Friday morning. I’m not a huge fan of Las Vegas, but it’s a fairly easy and affordable destination to reach from BWI. And, for the sake of convenience, I’d changed our reservation from a hotel on the Strip to The Palms, where the concert venue — the Pearl — was located.
We arrived at The Palms before 10 a.m., but were able to check in to a newly renovated (and ultra-trendy) room in the Ivory Tower. After offloading our little bit of luggage and loading up on caffeine, we grabbed a cab and indulged in some of the non-gambling entertainments offered by LV — since neither of us is a big gambler. For us, that meant shopping, dining, and people-watching. We had a great lunch at Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay’s restaurant at Caesar’s Palace — where we focused on appetizers — amazing!) and dinner at B&B (Mario Batali’s stellar offering at the Venetian). We arrived back to The Palms to find dozens of taxis depositing concertgoers to the venue, and grabbed our tickets and seats just minutes before the show. The security guards gave the front row people purple wristbands as identification.
Our seats at MK shows have been progressively better and better: from seats on the lawn at Wolf Trap, to the 11th row at the Warner Theater, to the 4th row at the Verizon Center (on a tour with — ugh! — Bob Dylan). We’ve never had a bad view, but this was incredible. The Pearl theater, which holds something over 2,000 people, has great acoustics and sightlines. But in the front row, we got not only the benefit of the venue’s great qualities, but also were able to observe the tiny little details that make a show like this so amazing — the interaction among the band members, the professionalism of the crew, and, of course, the main attraction: MK.
What can I say about the show? My vocabulary for music isn’t as developed as it is for writing about sailing and travel. So, I’ll say it in my inadequate way. The man whose music drew me in from the first note of Sultans of Swing in the late ’70s, and kept me through his soundtracks and through Dire Straits’ mega-stardom in the mid-’80s, and drew me in to his solo efforts, kept me rapt for every moment of the 2 hours of this show — and left me wanting more. The setlist included a mix of new music as well as Dire Straits stuff, each song benefiting from the additional energy and creativity available at a live show. MK speaks to his audience not just with his words, but with his second voice — the guitar he wields alternatively like a precision instrument or like an axe, as the song requires, and always identifiable as no one else’s but his. His songs tell stories, but he leaves gaps that enable listeners to add their own meaning and interpretation. I hated when the show ended.
(Now for a bit of editorializing. There was a contingent of fans at the show who had the utter and complete conviction that there is only one way to enjoy a concert, and it is theirs. That meant that right after Telegraph Road and before the encore, they rushed the stage and planted themselves in front of the rest of the audience, ignorning the security guards’ too polite (since they were ineffectual) requests that they return to their seats. If any of audience members complained, the stage-rushers either exhorted them to stand up as well, or gave them grief for having the audacity to want to enjoy the concert their own way. While I personally don’t get why anyone would sit in the front row sending text messages throughout the concert, I defend their right to do so — since they paid for their tickets and may have traveled a long distance to get to this show. Not cool.)
As the show ended, I was very glad we’d decided to stay at The Palms. Having been awake for 20 hours, I was glad not to have to endure the hassle of a long taxi line and a slog through late-night traffic on the Strip. Instead, a short elevator ride. And, the next morning, the airport and home.
Now, on to desert islands….