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Humble guitar hero in Istanbul tonight

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News | 6/13/2008 12:00:00 AM |

For someone who is famous for his quiet music, unlike rock's many greats, the way Mark Knopfler's calmly talks is very befitting. Even when criticizing the music industry or joking about the sea traffic of Istanbul, where he will be playing tonight, he proves why he is amongst rock music's gentlemen

His music may be credited for sensitivity and gentleness, but the way Scottish guitar hero Mark Knopfler talks is rather sarcastic and critical - mostly toward the music business.

Speaking at a press conference in Istanbul's Çırağan Palace, only a day before tonight's gig at Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena, Knopfler started his words by admiring the city, where he will play for the first time. However, among his positive feelings for Istanbul, the busy naval traffic of the Bosporus caught his attention first.

"I was looking out of the window at 5:00 a.m. this morning, when I saw a ship passing by," the ex-Dire Straits leader said smiling. "At 7:00 a.m., I saw another one. In the daytime, there were more ships, but all were going in the same direction."

It is not easy to realize that Knopfler is taking situations lightly. No big laughs or changing mimics on his face. Only after a few minutes of talking, one gets to understand that he is enjoying himself.

"I started reading regulations on the sea traffic, it's really educational for me," he joked. But even if it was not for its traffic, Knopfler would like the Bosporus anyhow. Born and raised in port cities such as Glasgow and Newcastle, he admits that he is fond of rivers and seas.

"Clues can be found in 'Sailing To Philadelphia,'" said a journalist, and the guitarist gently replied, "No, that was written on a plane."

That was one of the rare moments when the talk came to his recent, solo works. Generally, it was the 1980s imperial rock band Dire Straits which stole the show. As the vocalist, guitarist, lyricist and songwriter, Knopfler was at the helm of one of the most influential and best-selling groups of that era. His unique style of playing guitar, and not being afraid to put long instrumental passages devoted to his solos, earned him a place in the rock's greats.

Bands avoiding risks :

Nowadays, not many rock bands dare to put out singles that last six or seven minutes and can sell millions of records, like Dire Straits did it many times with "Tunnel of Love" or "Romeo & Juliet." Are today's bands not taking risks anymore, or are they limiting their creativity?

"It was a risk, too, back then," Knopfler replied. "I think the record companies are sticking to rules more now. And single has always been a promotional format. We have always been into making albums, not singles."

He then recalled the BBC's refusal to play the band's first single "Sultans of Swing," because there were too many words in it.

"Yeah, there were," Knopfler said. "But they had to play it then, after it was a hit in the USA."

But he is not feeling that it is all dark. "Music, like bubblegum, has always been present, in the '50s, in the '60s, or today," he explained. Ironically, he has foreseen and criticized "the MTV culture" more than 20 years ago in his song "Money for Nothing." "That was a hit, too," he smiled.

When he was asked whether he will revisit those glory days of Dire Straits at tonight's concert, Knopfler said he did not know. He admittedly sums up his playlist on the day of the show, depending on his feelings. But he made sure that he will not ignore Dire Straits songs, anyway.

"We had great time making those songs then, and I know that they are landmarks in many people's lives," he added.

Of all those great records by Dire Straits, 1985's "Brothers in Arms" is a standout. It is seen as the band's masterpiece, but for Knopfler it is no different than the others.

"It was just another album for us," he recalled. "But we toured a lot then, and people's attention grew. And there were a lot of hit singles on that album."

It may be hard to believe that he understates the greatness of that record that has "Money for Nothing" that featured Sting, the velvet-like ballad "Your Latest Trick," or "Walk of Life," the all-time favorite tune to American football, but as Knopfler should be credited for his consistency, he has more tricks up his sleeve: From the flawless "Making Movies" to the late solo work "Sailing to Philadelphia."

The gig at the Kuruçeşme Arena starts at 9:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased from Biletix, and are priced YTL 100.

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