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Review: Mark Knopfler The O2, Dublin

Mark Knopfler has made a curious journey from 1980s 'rock god' to purveyor of tasteful blues and Celtic schmaltz. Tonight, he starts with eight windswept minutes of easy listening called 'Border Reiver'.

Doused to within an inch of its life in flutes, fiddles and bouzouki, it sounds like a Riverdance out-take rejected on the grounds of excessive sentimentality.

It's not quite true to say the 61-year-old is reluctant to acknowledge his past as front-man of Dire Straits.

However, he is clearly just as eager to remind the audience what he's been at in the decades since. From return-from-retirement album 'Sailing to Philadelphia', released 10 years ago, the title track is a Hallmark card to the American roots music Knopfler worshipped as a boy in a Newcastle. Next, he and his five-piece band plunge into the ersatz American folk of 'Prairie Wedding' and 'Hill Farmer's Blues', both crafted to serve as a springboard for Knopfler's intricate guitar spirals.

Suffering a trapped nerve, Knopfler is required to perform from a swivel chair. There is a disconnect between the louche figure reclining in the seat, and the bluesy intensity of the music. It's the 'singing drummer' effect -- there's something about the sight of a rock star embarking on a 'face melter' solo while sitting down that simply jars.

No doubt aware of the reception afforded the artist previously known as Cat Stevens when he tried to get away without playing some of his greatest hits at this very same venue, Knopfler wisely sprinkles the set with Dire Straits classics. A piano refrain leads into a dulcet 'Romeo and Juliet'. Later, he seems to genuinely enjoy dusting down 'Sultans of Swing', 'Telegraph Road' and 'Brothers in Arms'. If only he had thought to wear the white bandanna that was his trademark 25 year ago, our craving for nostalgia would have been sated completely.

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