On The Night

Dire Straits

Warner Brothers Records, 1993


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I think that many people of my age got hooked on Dire Straits thanks to their groundbreaking video "Money For Nothing," and found a lot to like on their then-current album Brothers In Arms.

But the further you dig, the more one realizes just how drop-dead boring Dire Straits can be. While the Mark Knopfler-led group constantly prove themselves to be talented musicians, the performance of their music is quite sterile. This leads us to 1993's On The Night, the second live album from the British group (and, the way things have been looking, the last album from them, save for another greatest hits repackage).

I don't know what happened in the translation from the stage to the tape. I mean, I saw Dire Straits perform in Chicago on their tour for On Every Street, and the show was anything but boring. But the ten songs on this set don't always light up the speakers the way that Knopfler and crew do in the flesh.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ah, maybe I've already hit upon the problem early on in the review! Often, I've heard bands live who just plain kicked ass, and I've gone back to their studio efforts and have been incredibly disappointed. Maybe this is the case with Dire Straits; nothing takes the place of seeing them live.

And it's not that everything on this album will put you to sleep. When the band relies on selections from Brothers In Arms and On Every Street, things do take off. Renditions of "Walk Of Life" and "Heavy Fuel" are very interesting, and the live version of "Money For Nothing" has a livelier tempo, even if the vocals sound a bit jaded. What I don't understand is that "On Every Street" gets one of the loudest ovations from the crowd (these shows were recorded in France and The Netherlands); I never thought this was a song to go ape over (though the version here is not bad at all).

But not all the material from the blockbuster albums lights the speakers up the same way. "Calling Elvis" sounds rather uninspired, and the jams at the end of the song almost prolong the torture. (In the band's defense, they did the same thing when I saw them in concert; again, this might be something that translates better when you can see it.) The closer, "Brothers In Arms," is another track that just plods along.

For that matter, maybe this is the problem I have with On The Night. Many of the "for the fans" tracks tend to crawl. "Romeo And Juliet" (I liked the Indigo Girls' rendition better), "Private Investigations" and "You And Your Friend" all seem to stall in first gear - not the best thing to happen on a live album. However, there is a hidden gem in "Your Latest Trick," which features Dire Straits sounding like they've finally tapped a vein of musical energy that they had been searching for. More songs in this style would have helped this album immensely.

And I can hear the obvious criticism: Where is "Sultans Of Swing"? Hey, you want that one, go buy Alchemy. (Now that I think about it, I think there are some repeats from the earlier live album on this one.)

Of course, the diehard Dire Straits fan will find every note of this disc to be pure ambrosia. For the rest of us, On The Night has some moments of glory, but it's not the pinnacle of what Dire Straits is all about -- and that's the greatest disappointment of all.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.