It’s one thing to locate someone on the Internet. It’s another to find him in person.
It took a month for Dire Straits keyboardist and producer Alan Clark to track down Terence Reis, who he discovered on YouTube and finally found living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Clark was tasked with putting the band back together, minus finger-picking guitar hero Mark Knopfler, for a 2011 charity concert in the Royal Albert Hall.
“He grew up in Mozambique,” Clark told Tahoe Onstage by telephone from his home in West Berkshire, England. “Street musicians there play guitar with their fingers pretty much the way Mark Knopfler plays guitar, so for him it was totally natural to play the guitar that way.”
The Dire Straits hadn’t performed in 20 years and, of course, Knopfler was the iconic band’s guitarist, so when he was approached by Terence Reis (sounds like “beige,” or he’s all the “rage”) was skeptical.
“It took a little while for the truth to dawn on him,” Clark said. “When he heard the words, ‘I’m Alan Clark, the keyboard player from the Dire Straits,’ he thought it was a windup. It was actually his birthday the day before. He may have thought somebody is winding me up for my birthday only a day late. He very quickly realized I was the real thing and serious.”
Reis played the song “Communique” and Clark was impressed, but he wanted to hear more.
“A couple days later he sent me a pretty rough and ready version of ‘Sultans of Swing.’ ” Clark said. “It’s certainly not rough and ready now, I’ll tell you that.”
The performance made up entirely of Dire Straits songs at the venerable London concert hall reportedly “blew away” an earlier show by Eric Clapton.
And so the Straits were born. The band has performed many times since, but its first United States tour inclued the MontBleu Theatre on March 28.
The Straits include Clark and saxophonist Chris White, both Dire Staits members since the album “Brothers in Arms.” The other members are recording and touring superstars. Bassist Mick Feat has been with Knopfler, Art Garfunkel, Van Morrison and David Gilmour. Guitarist Adam Philips has recorded with David Bowie, Enrique Iglesias, Tina Turner, Lionel Ritchie, Cher, Richard Ashcroft, James Morrison and Rod Stewart. The kid in the band is 25-year-old multi-instrumentalist Adam Phillips. The drummer, and the first person Clark said he called, is Steve Ferrone, who played with Clark in Eric Clapton’s band. He also plays with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Ferrone is recording an album with Petty and did not make the U.S. tour. His replacement is Andy Treacey from the dance band Faithless.
“It’s not every day you can handpick a band together to get the best you can possibly get and this band is that, basically,” Clark said.
Noted for accomplished musicianship, Dire Straits have sold 120 million albums. But it was helped along with the advent of the compact disc and the popularity of MTV.
“The Dire Straits were probably in their prime around ‘Brothers in Arms’ which was ‘’85-86,” Clark said. “I certainly look back as that being the best time for the band and it was the most successful, too.
“It was one of the very first albums to make the transition from an album to a CD. … It was timing. It was the time for everybody to jump from the old vinyl to CD and also ‘Money for Nothing’ had that MTV link. The whole thing came together. It was synchronicity. It wasn’t planned that way. It was just good fortune, really.”
Knopfler has made seven solo albums since 1995.
The Straits 22-date U.S. tour began Feb. 28 in Mansitee, Mich. It concluded March 29 in Las Vegas.
Ultimate Classic Rock’s Top 10 Dire Straits songs
1 – “Sultans of Swing”
2 – “Money for Nothing”
3 – “Tunnel of Love”
4 – “Romeo and Juliet”
5 – “Walk of Life”
6 – “Skateaway”
7 – “Twisting By the Pool”
8 – “So Far Away”
9 – “Private Investigations”
10 – “Industrial Disease”
“Dire Straits” 1978
“Making Movies” 1980
“Love over Gold” 1982
“Brothers in Arms” 1985
“On Every Street” 1991