There is much more to Dire Straits than Mark Knopfler's guitar. When the band's first American tour in five years came to a sold-out Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, the British quartet (plus three fellow musicians) proved a cohesive and compelling ensemble in every respect. Though Knopfler's fluid, lyrical guitar solos were still a highlight, they were now balanced by his deadpan delivery of his witty, trenchant lyrics and by his smart, extended arrangements for his gifted septet.
In fact, drummer Terry Williams is every bit as much a virtuoso on his instrument as Knopfler is on his. Williams' controlled rhythmic bursts sped on the bouncy rockers like "Walk of Life" and "Tunnel of Love" and sustained the tension of more ruminative numbers like "Romeo and Juliet." Knopfler's songs from the new album "Brothers in Arms" displayed a new melodicism (elaborated by breathtaking harmonies on "Why Worry") and a new satirical bite (at its sharpest on the anti-MTV "Money for Nothing").
The show had its lapses -- the overly mellow "Ride Across the River" and the overly artsy "Private Investigation" -- but its high points -- Knopfler's soaring solo tag to a tight "Sultans of Swing" and the interplay between Williams' fills and Knopfler's breathless vocals on "Expresso Love" -- were high points of the summer season.