Still doing the walk of life

The Dire Straits Experience takes the stage in Tel Aviv.

The Dire Straits tribute concert (photo credit: TOM CLEARY)
The Dire Straits tribute concert
(photo credit: TOM CLEARY)
Tribute bands can be a blight or a blessing. There’s nothing lamer than seeing your favorite band get hacked to mediocrity by a cast of impostors who have the wrong accents or attempt to dress in period costumes or hairpieces.
But there’s nothing more magical than reliving the highlights of a long-lost classic rock institution by musicians who may not necessarily look like Jimmy Page or John Lennon but sound note for note just like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles.
It could have gone either way when The Straits arrived in Israel three years ago to perform the greatest hits of British legends Dire Straits. Even though the group included two members of the mother ship – keyboardist Alan Clark and sax player Chris White – Dire Straits’s identity and sound were always based around the guitar, vocals and songwriting of Mark Knopfler. It would be like The Grateful Dead performing without Jerry Garcia (ahem).
The only solution would have been for Clark and White to clone Knopfler, who long ago eschewed rock stardom for a lowkey roots and rustic career. So they did.
The sold-out show at Hangar 19 was phenomenal, with the seven-piece band providing a downright top-rate Dire Straits show, featuring the unbelievable Knopfler channeling of Mozambique-born guitarist/ singer Terence Reis.
The music hit every target, without a false note of mimicry or nostalgia – which is quite a feat, since it was all about mimicry and nostalgia. Reis not only replicated Knopfler’s guitar and singing style in an eerily accurate manner through the deep catalog of classics like “Telegraph Road,” “Tunnel of Love” and “Brothers in Arms,” but he performed with such gusto and passion that it was easy to forget we weren’t watching the original Dire Straits in its early 1980s prime.
Clark told The Jerusalem Post before that show that his wife discovered Reis on a YouTube clip when they were searching for a Knopfler sit-in after being asked to perform at a 2011 benefit show at Royal Albert Hall in London.
“His voice was amazing, so I got in touch with him and asked him to send me a couple of tracks – just him playing acoustic guitar and singing. He sent me the song ‘Communique,’ and it was amazing. It was enough for me to say to him, ‘Okay, you’re our man,’” Clark recounted.
On the band’s website, White concurred that the project would never have gotten off the ground without Reis’s presence.
“In Terence Reis, I think we may have found the only person on the planet that is able to play and sing like Mark but maintain his own integrity and identity,” said White. “I think this is the very essence of why the fans have been so accepting of what we do. They believe in Terence as his own man. They know he is not trying to be Mark. Because of his respect for Mark, Terence is able to perform these songs in a very honest way that allows his energy and talent to come through.”
After performing more than 150 shows over the past three years, The Straits hung it up, with Clark taking a couple of the band members to form a new group called Y-Company. However, White and Reis and the remaining players decided to keep the concept going, renaming the project The Dire Straits Experience. They’re returning to Israel this next weekend for two shows at the Amex Music Arena at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds on June 26 and June 27.
Whether you close your eyes or stare at Reis with an open jaw as he leads the band through “Walk of Life” and “Sultans of Swing,” the truth in advertising will bear out: It will certainly be a Dire Straits experience.