Mark Knopfler @ United Palace Theater, NYC 5/6/10

“The thing about the old Straits songs is that they are signposts for people’s lives. Obviously I’ll play them differently here and there to keep it alive and meaningful to me, and away from a cabaret thing. But there are times, like the twiddly bits at the end of ‘Sultans,’ if you don’t do your twiddly bits, the world’s not right for people. I like playing the old songs, I wrote them and people like to hear them, it’s as simple as that.”

That’s from the bio on Last night’s concert at the lavish United Palace (formerly one of Loew’s famous Wonder Theatres in the ’30s) in Washington Heights allowed for only a few Dire Straits songs. Classics like “Money For Nothing” and “On Every Street” are decades old, and he didn’t play them for good reason (which I’ll get to in a minute). But, yes, “Sultans Of Swing” is the song he’ll be playing forever. Check out the shrieks at the twidliest part of the twidly bits of the song last night…

To quote my friend Ryan Muir, who shot the photos accompanying this post: “After all this Lo-fi chill wave bullshit it sure is refreshing to hear clear, confident, crisp instrumentation. Knopfler sounds GREAT.”

Despite Mark remaining seated for the entire performance, the guitarist blew minds with his fretwork on that familiar red Strat. You already know he is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. But I’m guessing, since you and I are all much younger than the crowd at last night’s show, that you don’t know Mark’s Get Lucky was the greatest folk album of 2009. Much of the night’s setlist — and Mark’s been doing pretty much the same songs on every night of this tour — came from that LP. It’s a Celtic-infused collection of stories about British, Welsh, and American working class men he’s met over the years. “Monteleone,” for example, was born out of cryptic e-mails a Long Island guitar maker (who Mark compares to Da Vinci) sent while building him an acoustic: e.g., “The chisels are calling,” “It’s time to make sawdust.” Last night was the first time Mark and band played it publicly, they’d been waiting to debut it at United Palace because “it’s a New York story.” On record the track utilizes a 40-piece orchestra. Guy Fletcher recreates that all on keyboard during this tour. Another highlight: Michael McGoldrick’s gorgeous Northumbrian wooden flute playing on “Border River.” And Tim O’Brien on mandolin, banjo, dobro, et al. All around some of the finest musicianship I’ve seen in years.

The reworking of “Brothers In Arms” was my only letdown, although I admit it will never sound as good as it did in Two Cathedrals.

Get psyched, Europe:

Fri 05/07/10 Upper Darby, PA @ Tower Theatre
Sat 05/08/10 Atlantic City, NJ @ Caesars Circus Maximus Theatre
Sun 05/09/10 Albany, NY @ Palace Theatre
Wed 05/19/10 Dublin, Ireland @ The O2 Dublin
Thu 05/20/10 Belfast, United Kingdom @ Odyssey Arena
Fri 05/21/10 Glasgow, United Kingdom @ S.E.C.C.
Sat 05/22/10 Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom @ Metro Radio Arena
Sun 05/23/10 Birmingham, United Kingdom @ LG Arena
Tue 05/25/10 Manchester, United Kingdom @ Manchester Evening News Arena
Wed 05/26/10 Cardiff, United Kingdom @ Cardiff International Arena
Thu 05/27/10 Brighton, United Kingdom @ The Brighton Centre
Fri 05/28/10 Bournemouth, United Kingdom @ Bournemouth International Centre
Sun 05/30/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Mon 05/31/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Tue 06/01/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Wed 06/02/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Thu 06/03/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Fri 06/04/10 London, United Kingdom @ Royal Albert Hall
Sun 06/06/10 Merksem, Belgium @ Lotto Arena
Mon 06/07/10 Frankfurt, Germany @ Festhalle – Messe Frankfurt
Tue 06/08/10 Luxembourg, Luxembourg @ Rockhal
Wed 06/09/10 Paris, France @ Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
Fri 06/11/10 Middlefart, Denmark @ Little Belt Bridge (“Rock Under The Bridge”)
Sat 06/12/10 Helsingborg, Sweden @ Sofiero Slott
Sun 06/13/10 Oslo, Norway @ Frognerparken (“Norwegian Wood Festival”)
Mon 06/14/10 Bergen, Norway @ Vestlandshallen
Wed 06/16/10 Hamburg, Germany @ O2 World Hamburg
Thu 06/17/10 Hannover, Germany @ TUI Arena
Fri 06/18/10 Berlin, Germany @ O2 World
Sat 06/19/10 Leipzig, Germany @ Leipzig Arena
Sun 06/20/10 Cologne, Germany @ Lanxess Arena
Tue 06/22/10 Oberhausen, Germany @ Konig – Pilsener Arena
Wed 06/23/10 Mannheim, Germany @ SAP ARENA
Thu 06/24/10 Stuttgart, Germany @ Hanns Martin Schleyer Halle
Fri 06/25/10 Munich, Germany @ Konigsplatz
Sat 06/26/10 Prague, Czech Republic @ O2 Arena
Mon 06/28/10 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Heineken Music Hall
Tue 06/29/10 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Heineken Music Hall
Wed 06/30/10 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Heineken Music Hall
Fri 07/02/10 Wroclaw, Poland @ Hala Stuleca
Sat 07/03/10 Vienna, Austria @ Wiener Stadthalle
Sun 07/04/10 Budapest, Hungary @ Budapest Sportarena
Fri 07/09/10 Padova, Italy @ Anfiteatro Camerini
Sat 07/10/10 Lucca, Italy @ Piazza Napoleone (“Lucca Summer Festival”)
Mon 07/12/10 Perugia, Italy @ Arena Santa Giuliana (“Umbria Jazz Festival”)
Tue 07/13/10 Rome, Italy @ Cavea Auditorium Roma
Thu 07/15/10 Montreux, Switzerland @ Stravinski Auditorium (“Montreux Jazz Festival”)
Fri 07/16/10 Locarno, Switzerland @ Piazza Grande (“Moon & Stars Locarno”)
Sat 07/17/10 Wurzburg, Germany @ Fest Marienberg
Mon 07/19/10 Monte Carlo, Monaco @ Sporting Club (“Sporting Summer Festival”)
Tue 07/20/10 Monte Carlo, Monaco @ Sporting Club
Thu 07/22/10 Nimes, France @ Arenes (“Festival De Nimes”)
Fri 07/23/10 Barcelona, Spain @ Olympic Arena
Sun 07/25/10 Cordoba, Spain @ Plaza De Toros
Tue 07/27/10 Lisbon, Portugal @ Campo Pequeno
Wed 07/28/10 Santiago, Spain @ Multiusos Fontes do Sar
Thu 07/29/10 Madrid, Spain @ Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas
Fri 07/30/10 Bilbao, Spain @ Plaza De Toros
Sat 07/31/10 Avila, Spain @ TBA

Get Lucky is out now on Warner Bros.