Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Delft to Amsterdam, The Netherlands (May 13–14, 2013)

After allowing us to spend the night in her house in Goirle, gracious Ingrid gave us a ride on Monday morning to the train station in the nearby town of Tilburg. I was still half awake and three quarters asleep: it’s a problem that I have, that one night’s sleep is rarely enough to render me unwound and rested after a stressful day. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, or more, until I regain my physical and mental strength.

Some Dutch people told me that it’s because I never take a shower in the morning (I only take showers at night). I may give it a shot.

At any rate, arrived at Jeroen’s place just before noon. Quick shower and off to visit his workplace—essentially, a concentration of overly intelligent people doing all sorts of scientific programming, including making sure that the government of The Netherlands is notified as soon as it becomes a possibility that the country is flooded with water. Cool people. When it’s lunch time, someone there hits a gong and everyone gathers at the dining room.

I wrote before about the Dutch people’s obsession with breads, spreads and chocolate sprinkles. It was shockingly predictable that things hadn’t changed much since I was here last. I was sitting at the table next to about twenty nice Dutchmen, took a couple of slices of bread, put some peanut butter on one slice and then asked a very simple question:

– “What should I put on this?”

I was shocked by the response. People started suggesting so many options, passing boxes and cans of strange materials for me to pick from. Ten seconds later, I was surrounded by containers:


Lovely people, great hospitality. Being there, you feel that this is a company worth working for—a rarity these days.

As Monday was a day off in a familiar city, I used it for touring maintenance. It helps to be able to revisit your packing strategy—leaving items behind, taking additional items with you—a couple of weeks into the tour: I already decided on a few items that I’m going to leave here and have them shipped to Vancouver as it became apparent that I won’t be needing them.

Laundry—done. Also found a charger for my shaver, after forgetting mine at home.

Monday, a day off, in a familiar place. Batteries recharged.

Tuesday morning, woke up slowly to the sound of nothing and looking forward to take a walk in Delft’s city center.

I have been to Delft a few times before already. I really, really don’t know how why exactly, but there’s something in this little city that makes me want to be in it. It’s a combination of the cool, laid back Dutch mentality and the setting of a city where time slows down, nobody rushes anywhere and people are courteous and nice to each other.

It is also very easy to get run over by bicycles in here, but that’s not entirely exclusive to Delft. In many cities in The Netherlands, your chances of being hit by a bicycle are not much lower than your chances of being hit by a car, and if you’re not very well accustomed to the Dutch people’s biking habits, then you really want to look to your left, right, forward, backward and in all diagonals before crossing any pathway here.

And Lord, the bicycles. By the thousands. Just to make matters a bit clearer, take a look at this picture:


What you see here is a picture of a one parking lot for bicycles, located next to Delft’s railway station (there’s another one like this nearby, plus another smaller one). People park their bicycles here before boarding the train, and picking them up once they’re back. I will never understand how the hell they manage to find their own bicycles when they return.

By the way: Delft’s population is about 100,000. I can’t help but wonder what this would look like in, say, Amsterdam.


Came across this place, which makes a bold statement that it is in the cheese business:


Parked my bottom in Coffee Company—a cafe in the city center where I’m a regular whenever I’m in town—to catch up with work, writing and composing. Then, a short trip to a place called Pure Coffee: must be a new spot in town, as I have never seen it before—but will definitely revisit. They deal with raw, healthy foods—a dining option that is relatively easy to find in Western Canada but rather tricky to find around here (that, or I have been looking at all the wrong places).

After a superbly laid back day, it was time to get into concert routine again. Back to Jeroen’s apartment to get ready, and left at 6:00pm to Delft’s railway station. A few of Jeroen’s colleagues decided to see for themselves what’s so special about this band’s performances that makes it worth the while to watch seventy times in three months. Delft to Schiphol airport, then connecting to Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA (not a typo; that’s how they spell it. A branding thing, I guess).

The Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA railway station is a large one, and serves a few important entertainment establishments in Amsterdam—all of which are within short walking distance from each other. You’ll find the Heineken Music Hall—a very popular concert venue—here, as well as the home stadium for the renowned Ajax football club. Nearby, there stands the Ziggo Dome.

The Ziggo Dome is a new indoor arena, opened less than one year ago. It seats 17,000 and, among all multi‐use indoor arenas so far used in this tour, wins the top spot. For once, it is huge, which means that you are likely to find a way to walk around this venue without stepping on anyone’s toes; second, the venue’s facilities are clean, organized, well‐signed and well‐kept; and third, finally, there’s a venue with proper food offering. While other indoor arenas focus on selling alcohol, leaving hungry people with the choice of eating garbage or stay hungry, this place offers—you may want to sit before reading this—proper, relatively healthy dining options such as sandwiches made on the spot, natural juices and the like. Beats the hell out of the Beschuit Met Hagelslag I had in Jeroen’s apartment before we left—for the first time ever, I felt bad for not being hungry while at a concert venue.

As we all arrived late due to train delays, not much time passed before the lights went out and Paul Crockford took the microphone to welcome the opening act for the concert: Ruth Moody, who, coincidentally, contributed her stunning voice to a few tracks in Knopfler’s latest album.

Winnipeg is the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba. Manitoba borders with Ontario (Capital city: Toronto. Now there’s a name you might have heard of) in the east and Saskatchewan (Capital city: Regina. Now there’s a name you probably never heard of before) in the west. The provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and most of Alberta (located to immediate west of Saskatchewan) are all referred to as the Canadian Prairies, and for a good reason: we’re talking about vast areas that are for the most part flat and sparsely populated.

How vast? well, Manitoba’s area alone is 650,000km2, out of which approximately 102,000 km2 (over 15%!) water. France is not too much larger with 674,000km2. Quite the prairie, I’d say (Saskatchewan adds another 650,000km2).

As Ruth Moody mentioned while on stage, Winnipeg is cold at winters. How cold? unimaginably so. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Winnipeg was −47.8℃, recorded in December 1879. Days with insanely cold temperatures such as −25℃ or −30℃ were not too uncommon in recent winters.

If the winter there doesn’t kill you, then the summer might. Winnipeg’s summers are very hot. In addition, Winnipeg is dubbed the “Mosquito Capital of Canada”, boasting mosquitos big enough to lift small children.

I have been to Winnipeg once before, in 2008, while following Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America. Back then, the itinerary included a few major Canadian cities, crossing Canada from west (Vancouver) to east (Montréal, which isn’t exactly “east” in Canada. The true “east” is St. John’s, Newfoundland, located a couple of hours flight east of Montréal). I followed that entire North American tour, mostly by car.

From Vancouver to Calgary, the scenery is brilliant, featuring mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, snow peaks—the works. A couple of hours west of Calgary, you enter Yoho National Park, which marks the western edge of the indescribably amazing Canadian Rockies. Here’s Peyto Lake, to demonstrate:


East of the Canadian Rockies, the scenery gradually changes from wild nature to rather dull nature, featuring very little except for prairies.

It’s a common Canadian joke that, if you live in the prairies and the dog runs away from home, you can still spot it 3 days later because it is so flat. “Land of the Endless Sky”, as depicted in the following picture taken in a rest stop somewhere in Saskatchewan:


One of the better things to come out of Winnipeg is Ruth Moody (well, not technically; born in Australia, raised in Winnipeg), a singer whom I was completely oblivious of before Knopfler released Privateering last year. Being home for Justin Bieber, it’d be fair to say that Canada has a lot to compensate for, and Ruth Moody is certainly a step at the right direction.

Moody was invited by Knopfler et al to be the opening act for the Amsterdam concert, as well as in a few concerts in the UK and France later on in the tour. Her opening act, presenting some of her own material along with an accompanying band, was pleasant to listen to although it did suffer from a few sound problems, including an almost complete outage during her beautiful rendition to Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. Certainly deserves a closer listen; I shall give her albums a couple of spins and report back.


After a forty minutes’ set, Moody left the stage. A few minutes later, the familiar band of eight took their spots and proceeded to perform the best concert so far in the tour.

The Netherlands has always been a warm spot for Knopfler, as his fan base here is quite strong. Knopfler’s concerts in The Netherlands usually end up being either sold out or very nearly so, with the audience involving people in virtually all age groups. During the 2010 Get Lucky tour, Knopfler played the Heineken Music Hall three nights in a row—the only venue to be played in more than once during that tour with the exception of London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Therefore, Knopfler’s decision to drop Sultans of Swing from the set in Amsterdam can’t be overlooked as if not indicative of anything. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions and just state that I am happy with this.


After the usual five opening songs, something happened that I haven’t seen in any of the previous ±160 concerts I had seen before: a guest artist being invited on stage to perform along with the band. After a few exceptionally warm introduction, Ruth made it back on stage, driving this concert to be the best one so far in the tour.

I Dug Up a Diamond was the first one in the sequence. Originally a duet with Emmylou Harris, I was curious to see how Ruth’s voice fits here. Ruth’s excitement was obvious, although she didn’t did much to hide it—no need to. Beautiful performance, exactly what this song needed after being arranged to a somewhat stripped‐down configuration.


Next up: Seattle, a beautiful track first played live in Sofia, made a comeback with Ruth playing backing vocals to it (she played backing vocals for this song in the studio album as well). What can I say? fantastic. Exactly what this song needs when played live.


Two duets in the same show were a great surprise I was very happy with, but then again, why suffice with two? Kingdom of Gold, previously performed in this tour (and the preceding one) with Guy Fletcher singing backing vocals, now with Ruth contributing her own soothing voice to the mix. The result? well, I strongly suggest that you get your hands on the official soundboard recording of the show and give it a listen.

Altogether, I think that whoever had the chance to be at the Ziggo Dome for this concert can (and should) call themselves lucky. It’s not that previous concerts in the tour were bad: simply, this one—much thanks to Ruth’s participation—was extraordinary. I can only hope that she joins the stage later on in the tour as well.

A short break after a powerful Telegraph Road performance; So Far Away and Piper to the End concluded this excellent concert and sent the Dutch audience home happy.

I was asked before what my opinion is about Jim Cox’s performance comparing to Matt Rollings’, as well as Ian Thomas’ performance comparing to Danny Cummings’. Well, I am not a music critic and certainly don’t aspire to be: what I write is based mostly on coarse‐grained impressions that I get, and is often impacted by my overall experience rather than minutiae. While I do play guitar & piano, these guys are way out of my league and I consider myself lucky to be able to watch these guys play and somehow learn from them.

But if I were to compare Ian to Danny or Jim to Matt, I’d encounter a dead‐end very shortly into the process as we’re not comparing apples to apples here.

Comparing to Danny, Ian is certainly more aggressive and technical on the drums. Is it better? is it worse? neither. It’s just a different approach that works well for certain songs and not as well for others. Certain songs sound better to me with the beat being softer and less aggressive (What It Is being a good case in point), while some seem to sound better with Ian playing them. My own personal taste generally favours softness over aggressiveness, yet I’m aware that my opinion is a minority one.

On the keyboard, there is a world of difference between what’s being played by Jim Cox and what used to be played by Matt Rollings. Different style, different approach: Jim’s style is generally softer, while Matt’s is more technical. It seemed to me that Matt used to know exactly what he was going to be playing, while Jim is leaving more to improvisation.

It must be noted that piano involvement during this tour is considerably more visible than in previous tours: Jim is given much more space and freedom to demonstrate his style than Matt was, which makes it even harder to compare the performance styles of the two.

Plus, there is the difference in actual gear: I am not entirely sure what digital piano Matt used to play, but it certainly wasn’t Roland’s V‐Piano that Jim plays. I had the opportunity to lay my fingers on a V‐Piano before, and I can say that it is by far the best digital piano I have ever tried—it’s fabulous, period. Unfortunately, its steep price (about $6,500 in Canada) rendered it irresponsible for me to purchase one, so I ended up buying a different Roland instead.

So, who is better? I don’t know and I don’t care. For sure, though, they are different. Very different. Listen for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

After the concert, different people in the group left the hall at different times (meaning: everyone else left together, I stayed behind), which wasted a few important minutes on the way back to the train station. Due to delays, a simple ride back to Delft revolved into taking a couple of extra trains in the middle, and a stop in Schiphol Airport for about half an hour. It was close to 1:00am when we made it back to Delft.

Long day, excellent show. Back to touring mode.

Signing off this post while at the hotel in Luxembourg. What a depressing place.



  1. Thanks Isaac for giving us your thoughts on Jim and Ian. On the Privateering album I find Ian's playing the most subtle and most fitting for Mark's music of all his solo albums, but live Ian is a totally different drummer, much more aggressive.

  2. Just thought I'd check in to see if you were doing it again and here you are, with your well written well thought out blog. Awesome Isaac, just like 2010. Look forward to seeing you in London. Happy travels. V

  3. One addition to your review: the very aggressive stupid security in Amsterdam who violently forced the people back in their seats during Telegraph Road, only for some minutes because at the end of Telegraph Road we went to the front again and they let us do.
    I agree with you that it was the best show so far, saw only 4 so far, but heard some others too.

  4. Hi Issac
    It was great to meet you in Ziggo dome Show.
    Great show.
    grat blog, great information.
    Hope to see you again someday in another MK show.
    Avinoam (Guitar Builder)