Bringing the sound of Dire Straits to the Ipswich Regent

Star Event’s MARTIN HUTCHINSON talks to Alan Clark about resurrecting the sound of Dire Straits and the possiblity of a new album

FANS of Dire Straits have had to come to terms with the fact that once Mark Knopfler decided to disband the group in 1995 there would be no chance of hearing their classic songs in a live format again.

Thanks to the band’s keyboard player Alan Clark, their music has risen again and The Straits – The Sound of Dire Straits are now undertaking a ten-date tour of the UK this month.

From the late 70s through to the mid-90s the band, fronted by Knopfler, had massive success with hit singles like Sultans of Swing, Money For Nothing, Walk of Life, Private Investigations and Romeo & Juliet.

Add to that, there were the classic albums - which garnered no less than four chart-toppers - such as Communique, Love Over Gold and Brothers In Arms.

Clark, who hails from the north-east but has lived near Manchester for the last five years, put this new band together originally for a charity concert at the Albert Hall in London, he tells me from his home.

“I was asked to put a band together for the Lord’s Taverners and once things were in motion it all came together fairly quickly.”

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He joined the original band in 1980 and became the unofficial musical director. He was the band’s first keyboard player and his sound helped transform them into one of the world’s biggest attractions.

He also co-produced the band’s last studio album On Every Street.

Clark approached former members Phil Palmer on guitar and saxophonist Chris White, who readily agreed to join in. There was one problem though, they needed the sound of Knopfler and he solved the problem in a roundabout way.

“Some time ago, I’d been invited to play with an Italian Dire Straits tribute band and I became fascinated with Straits’ cover bands from around the world. I trawled the internet and discovered Terence Reis at the end of last year.”

Reis is originally from Mozambique and now lives in South Africa, his finger picking style of playing is similar to Knopfler’s and he has a voice not unlike his.

“Strangely he wasn’t in a cover band, but he was on a YouTube clip playing Sultans of Swing. He’s the perfect frontman,” adds the 59-year-old keyboard player.

Completing the line-up are Steve Ferrone on drums, bassist Mick Feat and a second keyboard player in Jamie Squire.

Ferrone was in the Average White Band and has worked with Eric Clapton and Quincy Jones, while Feat has actually worked with Knopfler, as well as Tina Turner and Justin Hayward.

Clark says that the only problems with the band are logistical ones.

“Getting them together was easy once I’d suggested it, but with the drummer living in LA and Terence in South Africa, it is logistically difficult, especially when we play in the UK.”

So far, the band has been well received.

“That’s right,” Clark agrees. “After the Albert Hall gig we’ve done festivals in the UK, Austria and Switzerland and have gone down extremely well.”

Knopfler is aware of The Straits.

“Yes, he knows of us, but I haven’t spoken to him about it. I suppose he feels that the music is in good hands. We’re taking good care of the Dire Straits legacy.”

Clark singles out Private Investigations as a song he particularly likes performing.

“I was very much involved with that song.” He says.

As for the show itself, we can expect all the hits.

“That’s correct, we’ll perform all the hits that we’d be expected to, which takes about an hour-and-a-quarter; we’ll also do some lesser known tracks which will take about half-an-hour.”

Not only have we this tour, but we can look forward to some new music.

“The idea is to make our own album,” Clark tells me.

“The writing process has begun and we hope to get something out sometime next year.”

The Straits plus special guest Jon Allen will be appearing at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich, next Thursday.

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