Dire Straits - Alchemy Live (3 Disc DVD & CD Set)
It’s been a long time coming but, finally, Dire Straits’ classic Hammersmith Odeon performance from 1984 has been given the deluxe reissue it deserves. A three disc set featuring the original concert video, painstakingly restored by archive specialist Dick Carruthers, and the remastered album split across two cds. Not only do you get the original material collated into one handy package, you also get a couple of classic Old Grey Whistle Test performances as well as a pristine copy of the much sought after BBC Arena documentary. Chuck away those Betamax and embrace the future!
Alchemy captures a band approaching the peak of their powers, on the cusp of the global superstardom which would eventually destroy them. The performance is particularly notable for the incredible space afforded to the select few tracks that constituted the show, each lasting an average of almost ten minutes. If nothing else this neatly demonstrates how much greater the attention span was only a couple of decades ago; try that these days and half the audience would be on the bus home before they’d arrived at the first chorus of opening track ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’.
Not that Dire Straits were universally admired back in the day. ‘The Kids’ considered them an abomination, a evil tool of ‘The Man’ on a par with Simply Red. They were, in short, purveyors of music for the perpetually middle aged. This was, of course, foolish prejudice and now in their thirties and forties these kids can finally see the error of their ways. Tongue in cheek maybe but there’s no denying that Mark Knopfler is and was one of the greatest rock musicians to ever emerge from the British Isles. Alchemy captures that staccato fretboard brilliance and it’s mesmerising to watch his unique fingerpicking technique coax unmistakable honking strat tones from that ‘Hank Marvin Red’ guitar.
The heady combination of virtuoso guitarist and consummate songwriter is best exemplified here by the bouncing arpeggiation of ‘Sultans of Swing’ and the tender genius of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. With such material to work with it was no wonder that the band would, with their next release, become a genuine global phenomenon. Coinciding with the explosion of MTv ‘Money For Nothing’ became the audio visual soundtrack of the mid eighties and commodified Dire Straits to the point where the space and expression of Alchemy quickly seemed rather quaint and anachronistic. Realising where things were heading, and in contrast to Cobain, the unassuming Knopfler pulled the plug on the band whilst he still had control and has since plied his trade somewhere just below the radar.
This bargain priced reissue offers an excellent opportunity for the casual punter to catch a glimpse of one of Britain’s greatest ever rock bands performing at the ultimate, iconic venue for rock n roll. Leave your prejudice at the door, wind the clock back to 1984 and soak up the music. It’s all about the music.