Sheffield Arena’s new Steel Hall format got its first public outing as former Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler rolled into town.
The new 4,000 capacity all-seater format, inside the Attercliffe venue’s main hall, gives the public a much more intimate style of show – and this gig would be a great test of how well it worked.
Knopfler last played the Arena with Dire Straits back in 1991, shortly after it opened, but since then he has built a good solid solo career in his own right.
No doubt some would have expected nothing more than a Dire Straits tribute, Well they’d be wrong, to some degree.
He has his own sound which certainly has not faded over the years and he’s put together a great band that compliments his rock-blues style.
He opened with Broken Bones and Corned Beef City, before moving onto likes of Privateering and Father+Son and Hillfarming with their Celtic tones.
After this, he introduced a young lady by the name of Ruth Moody, who joined the band for Kingdom of Gold and Skydiver.
After rocking it up a little with Laughs & Jokes and I Used to Could, he had the entire audience transfixed with a superb rendition of the timeless Romeo & Juliet that had everyone just sat soaking up the song –he then had the audacity to follow it with Sultans of Swing which was just as good.
Knopfler still has the guitar abilities he had back in the early days and, for any young guitarists, he is an artist they should take note of when learning they craft – watch, listen and learn.
The set then went through Mighty Man before we were all whisked away to warmer climes with Postcards from Paraguay, Speedway and Telegraph Road which had the audience on its feet.
After a few minutes, the band were back with So Far Away and Shangri-La, where the band looked so chilled, which was followed by Knopfler telling the audience if they get a standing ovation, they get an encore....if they don’t get one, they get two.
The band were joined by Moody again for a stunning duet with Knopfler through Wherever I Go, before the evening was topped off by Local Hero.
So, did the new format work? On the basis of how the audience enjoyed it, the arena should be onto a winner with this and hopefully there will be more gigs like this on the way.
Did the audience enjoy the show? Hhard to see anyone who wouldn’t.
Knopfler might not be local, but in that part of Sheffield he certainly was the hero. Lets just hope it’s not 24 years before he comes back.