By Nicola McAndrew
Gather round Dire Straits fans, this one’s for you.
Who here loves Dire Straits? Yes, an obviously rhetorical question. I can almost hear your wild cries of “We do! We love them!” through my computer screen. Calm down.
Founded in 1977 by leading man Mark Knopfler, the band’s career lasted a lengthy 15 years, including a split in 1988 (but we aren’t going to talk about that). Dire Straits have blessed us with iconic hits such as ‘Sultans of Swing’, ‘Tunnel of Love’ and my personal favourite, ‘Walk of Life’. Also, this April, the legendary band will have their name up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Bon Jovi and Nina Simone. Yes, I can hear your excited squeals and no, I haven’t even gotten started yet.
You can imagine my excitement and trepidation, then, when I went to go and see a Dire Straits tribute act ‘Money for Nothing’ (another personal favourite) at Swansea’s Grand Theatre. Headed by lead singer and guitarist Aled Williams, the Welsh band were formed in 2000, and have steadily climbed the musical ladders to earn the title of Europe’s best Dire Straits tribute act. It only takes a quick Google search to find out how highly esteemed this group really is. They’ve headlined all over the world it seems, even at Europe’s biggest tribute festival – so yeah, they’re good. But Dire Straits good? I’ll admit, I was worried. How could they possibly emulate the talent of one of the best British rock bands of all time? So, as I sat down and all six members of Money for Nothing made their way on to the stage, I crossed my fingers. Guess we’d find out.
As each member of the band made their way on to the stage, they all played a few introductory notes, sort of like a musical ‘hello!’. I’ll admit, the non-verbal intro was quite sweet. Almost like they were establishing from the beginning that they weren’t trying to hijack Dire Strait’s music, they were just there to perform it as best they could. Another detail that had been carefully interwoven in the act was the outfits. If you know Dire Straits, you’ll know about that snazzy red and black shirt that Mark Knopfler wore. Money for Nothing, of course, had replicated the outfit perfectly, right down to the bright red head and wrist bands. It made for a brilliant visual replication, one that many people seemed to appreciate.
It was also clear that I wasn’t the only one excited about this show. The whole theatre was packed out. There were fans of Dire Straits and fans of Money for Nothing alike (and a woman who cheered so loudly that even Freddie Mercury would have been astounded at her vocals).
That brings me on to the actual musical talent in the show. Quite a major factor, I know. Well, rest assured, as it was certainly wasn’t ‘money for nothing’. (I’ll see myself out). Dad jokes aside, every musician in the group had obvious and admirable talent. There were three guitarists, one of whom was Aled Williams, who, as I’ve mentioned, also shouldered the mantle of replicating Mark Knopfler. There was a drummer, a percussionist, and a saxophone player for hits like ‘Your Latest Trick’, which was in my opinion one of the best performances of the show. What I was especially pleased to notice was that Money for Nothing’s show didn’t ride on the success of a few good songs. Their fantastic ending rendition of ‘Money for Nothing’ was played with the same vigour they had performed with for the whole act. Dire Straits would have been proud.
In terms of stage presence, they were consistent in their entertainment. It was never boring. There were a few jokes between the drummer Derek Bisset and Aled which really put across their comfort performing with one another, and the audience laughed, cheered and clapped as though they had cue cards. Throughout the whole thing, at least one band member was smiling or laughing. It was enjoyable. It was professional. It was fun.
All in all, Money for Nothing’s entire act was a carefully scripted celebration of a legendary rock band. And they pulled it off. Although it wasn’t the real thing, it pumped life into the memory of Dire Straits, and channelled that musical talent towards the stage once again. I certainly recommend the show. Keep your eyes out if their tour hits your hometown, as I promise you that you won’t regret it.