Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris / June 22, 2006 / New York (Radio City Music Hall)
The rise of genre crossing collaborations has taken two different roads: the rather painful, corporate-forced route that yields Jay-Z and Linkin Park, or the tribute route, which is marked by a pairinThe rise of genre crossing collaborations has taken two different roads: the rather painful, corporate-forced route that yields Jay-Z and Linkin Park, or the tribute route, which is marked by a pairing of artists who undoubtedly have a mutual respect for each other. Mark Knopfler and country queen Emmylou Harris fall under the latter heading: a relationship that has developed over several years, allowing Knopfler to embrace Harris's knack for Americana.
For the most part, their June 22 performance in New York was a solid mix of songs from the duets album "All The Roadrunning," coupled with songs from each artists' respective solo careers. Not surprisingly, both Knopfler and Harris seemed to feel most comfortable when taking on their own material. Gorgeous versions of "Michelangelo" and "Boulder To Birmingham" found Harris's signature voice converting the Knopfler-heavy audience note by note. Likewise, Knopfler received standing ovations when he brought out his old ballad, "Romeo and Juliet" and the long-winding "Speedway at Nazareth."
When they teamed up, it was a bit hit or miss. Maybe it was New York jitters or not being fully warmed up, but they had a hard time out of the gate, noticeably fumbling through the words on the openers, "Right Now" and "Red Staggering." But once they reached the Knopfler-dominated "I Dug Up a Diamond" his annunciation became clearer and confident and the studio chemistry so evident on disc finally started to shine on stage.
While Knopfler and Harris both played to their strengths throughout the night (Harris's voice, Knopfler's guitar playing) their impressive backing band provided much more than just a rhythm section. In particular, fiddle master Stuart Duncan was applauded quite frequently, a rare occurrence for someone out of the spotlight. The band's ability to recreate the album's rich country-meets-cajun sound in a large, high-ceilinged hall was nothing short of amazing.
It was also refreshing that Knopfler didn't just rehash the '80s, even though a majority of the fans in attendance clearly remember those good old days (as evident with the reaction from the staple "So Far Away"). The sultan of swing has moved on, and it seems that in doing so, he's exposing new sounds and styles to his devotees. As one patron put it bluntly, "I've been a Mark fan for 20 years. I'd never really heard of her." Her 20-something daughter chimed in, "her voice is amazing, though!" Score one for the successful crossover.
Here is Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris' set list:
"I Dug Up a Diamond"
"Born To Run"
"Red Dirt Girl"
"Done With Bonaparte"
"Romeo and Juliet"
"Song for Sonny Liston"
"This Is Us"
"Boulder in Birmingham"
"All the Roadrunning"
"Speedway at Nazareth"
"So Far Away"
"If This Is Goodbye"