MARK KNOPFLER, Abravanel Hall, Wednesday

Mark Knopfler doesn't need flashy guitar solos and an auctioneer's mouth to capture his audience's attention. The reason is that Knopfler is a master singer/songwriter who knows which chords and lyrics touch his fans' hearts and souls.

Knopfler played to a nearly sold-out audience in Abravanel Hall Wednesday night. The set was filled with exceptional musicality and laid-back delivery. But not once did the show lack in energy.

The former Dire Straits leader did a few songs from his old band, and they added to the set that kicked off with Knopfler's own "Cannibals."

Abravanel Hall's acoustics highlighted the clean, crisp mix, although at first Knopfler's trademark mumble was lost under the instruments. But as the songs continued, his voice bubbled to the mix's surface.

"Sailing to Philadelphia," "True Love Will Never Fade" and "Daddy's Gone to Knoxville" were played tight and

true by Knopfler's traveling band — bassist Glenn Worf, drummer Danny Cummings, keyboardists Guy Fletcher and Matt Rollings and multi-instrumentalist Richard Bennett.

Each performer was able to take the spotlight more than a few times throughout the night. And each time they did, Knopfler stepped back and let them bask. But it was evident when the band resumed the groove, they were there in support of Knopfler.

The restless yearning came through during "Marbletown," and "The Fish and the Bird" was executed with finesse. Knopfler's guitar solos and low-key vocals gave the songs a working-class feel while the audience hung on every note and word.

The boys in the band reached into Knopfler's past and brought out Dire Straits songs throughout the night — the groovy "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Telegraph Road," "Brothers in Arms" and the encore-capping "So Far Away."

"Our Shangri-La," "What It Is" and the instrumental "Going Home" were other musical celebrations of the evening.

With the set list and a load of well-choreographed and computer-controlled stage lights, the show had something for everyone. And the standing ovation was well-deserved.

Knopfler kept his between-song banter kept to a minimum, but by the looks he gave the others during the extended jams, and the smiles he flashed into the audience, it was apparent that he was on the top of his game.

Jesca Hoop opened the evening with her raw, one-woman-with-a-guitar set.

Her unique finger-picking transformed her guitar into more of a percussion instrument as she played a dynamic, 30-minute set. She took time to greet some Salt Lake City-based family members in the audience and prepped the way for Knopfler and his band.


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