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:

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Week in London, UK (May 27–June 2, 2013)

As I wrote in the last post, the week in London was originally planned to be absolute, completely filled with doing almost nothing. After more than a month of intense travel—from the aviation industry’s clusterfuck in Israel and Germany, through the bus ride from hell to Poland and all other challenges along the way—finally, the time came for a most welcome break in one of my favourite cities.

Initially, I was planning on writing nothing during the week in London. That plan had to be altered following the exceptionally stellar concert on Monday, which was so good that I just had to share the experience somehow. Also, London’s weather wasn’t such that would build one’s passion to walk around and experience anything, unless one was a fish: for the first three days or so, it was cloudy, cold and occasionally rainy—providing excellent opportunity to catch up with a few obligations and rest. So, there was very little to write home about anyway.

The week in London was less about the concerts (as good as they were) than about everything else: resting, working and socializing. Knopfler fans make it a habit to arrive to London whenever the tour parks there for a few days, as London is easily accessible from pretty much anywhere and the long stay (about a week) makes for an excellent excuse for a vacation. So many familiar faces and names from previous tours, making it to London from as east as Israel and as west as California. Many of them ended up staying at the same hotel I was—the Copthorne Tara Hotel, which will be forever remembered for setting the most ridiculous Wi‐Fi payment and usage policy I have ever come across—so socializing during the week in London was more frequent than usual.

As the concert on Monday was absolutely stellar, I already knew that I should set my expectations accordingly. It is very difficult to produce such a fantastic concert once, let alone twice in a row. And indeed, Tuesday’s concert was less extravagant, with everybody (band & audience alike) seeming more laid back than before.


Tuesday was also the only London concert that featured a performance of Kingdom of Gold. Just saying.


And then came that “man on a track”, good performance of Telegraph Road and then something happened that made me post this. I was seated in the second row. I swear in the name of anything that might control this miserable planet that, within a blink of an eye, everyone just disappeared from the front row crashing into the stage. As if everyone was made of metal and the stage suddenly became a huge magnet.

I felt that something was a miss when I noticed that my friend Ingrid, who was seated in front of me on the front row, ended up being on the second row of people before the stage. Whoever has been to the Royal Albert Hall before (the distance between the front seats and the stage is about one meter), and/or knows Ingrid, should know that such an occurrence is not possible in normal working environments.

Seconds later, I figured it out—not by using much of my own brainpower, but by noticing that a few people (Ingrid included) were arguing with a tall, sociopath‐looking individual who stood behind them. Turned out that the sociopath was pushing people around in quite the violent manner.

We will get to that sociopath later.

On Thursday, I decided to buy some new underwear.


I am not entirely sure why, but when I packed for this trip, I ended up packing less underwear than what would make sense. It hit me in Sofia (when I had to hand‐wash my underwear and hang them on a LAN cable to dry out) but I never got around to buy new ones due to the lack of time and my complete cluelessness with anything revolving around buying clothes.

I don’t know how to buy clothes. Any clothes. At the odd times that I am forced to buy some clothes for myself, I end up screwing it up and buying nonsense.

Luckily, my frequent visits home mean that I have access to the best ever clothing shopping engine in the world: my beloved sister. Whenever I’m at home, I drag her along, ask her to pick clothes for me and all I have to do is try things on and sign my name on the credit card receipt at the end. I rarely argue—both because I don’t have enough fashion vocabulary to explain what I want, and also because it is virtually impossible to say “no” to my sister.

I am so clueless at buying clothes, that once I decided that I want (read: need) to buy underwear, I didn’t even know how I should go about doing so—that is, where should I buy them?—even though I was located in central London.

So, I posted this. Suggestions came pouring in. As they were, I was sitting in a Paul’s cafe in Old Compton street sipping coffee, when I suddenly heard someone calling “Isaac?”. By chance, it was my friend Phil Bayliss who lives in British Columbia and often attends Knopfler concerts in the UK as well. Good to meet good people along the way: we had met a few times before during this tour but never outside any concert venue. Ended up chatting for about an hour and then I realized that, what the heck, I’ve been out all day and still no new underwear purchased.

As I exited the cafe, I looked through the suggestions on my Facebook post and, naturally, decided to visit the closest one first. The closest one was a place called Fifty & Dean, located less than ten steps away from the cafe I was sitting in. Now, I don’t know if Michelle meant it as a joke when she suggested this place, but after spending less than one second inside I reached the conclusion that this is not the type of underwear I was looking for—partly because it was a sex shop but mostly because I happen to be (sit tight, this is going to hurt) heterosexual.

Thanks Michelle.

Ended up buying a few pairs in Primark—not before feeling the material of which each type of underwear was made of, a feat that I’m sure wasn’t perceived as proper by others. Six good pairs for £14. Not much more expensive than doing the laundry here.

Back to the hotel and then off to the concert. I was seated at the left hand side of the front row this time, a bit stinging in the left ear whenever high treble sounds broke out of the speakers—so I had to watch Speedway at Nazareth from the stairs area in order to avoid terrible pain.

The concert was very good, with the highlight being the Marbletown outro session. I already thought that I had watched this song performed in any way, shape or form conceivable to mankind, but every once in a while I get surprised. John McCusker took this one to the next level, and the band quickly joined in playing in such harmony and accuracy that, really, goes to show exactly why I think that these guys are phenomenal and worth watching and listening to more than once or twice.


And then something happened, that hasn’t happened yet in any concert I ever attended. Actually, such a thing hasn’t happened since I remember myself: for a brief period of about 30 seconds, I lost my temper at a complete stranger.

As mentioned, I was seated at the left hand side of the front row. I knew what was going to happen as soon as Telegraph Road ends. I never run anywhere, never push or pull people—all I really wanted was to get up from my seat and make exactly one step forward, towards the stage.

Which is exactly what I did. I was happy to arrive safely, and looking around, I saw people approaching the other side of the stage, running. And then—BAM, someone crashed into me from behind, squeezing me quite violently into the stage.

I turned around to see who the hell that was so I can give them a piece of my mind, and I saw a rather familiar face of an otherwise innocent Dutchman right behind me. Something didn’t look right: the chances of Jeroen intentionally pushing or pulling people around are lower than the chances of a live dinosaur being discovered in Manhattan. Turned out that he was pushed to distance of around 2–3 meters by someone, right onto me.

And by whom? that’s right—the very same sociopath who caused havoc just two nights before.

Jeroen wasn’t the only one pushed by that asshole. As the words “what are you, a stupid fuck?” came rolling out of my mouth—hell, I wasn’t even aware that I can utter such a sentence towards a stranger; I was that shocked of being pushed that violently—I noticed other people arguing with that very same individual. He looked at me and just froze: didn’t say a word to anyone around him, and only raised his hands as if to suggest “I have no idea what you want from me”. He then proceeded to video‐record the entire encore.

– “I don’t think I’ll ever get up from my seat again”, said the Dutchman as the band started playing So Far Away.

– “Why, because of this fucking jackass?” I asked, diverting my look to the sociopath standing less than a a foot away.

The first time I ever watched this band perform live was on July 5, 2005, in the Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto. I was seated at the front row. In the Molson Amphitheatre, the stage is very high—about five feet and a half above ground. Back then, like nowadays, Telegraph Road was the last song performed before the encore. Everybody stood up afterwards, for a standing ovation. Now, that was Canada: Canadians are very polite, and you are very unlikely to come across people who would run recklessly to the stage, let alone inflict violence upon others. We all stood as my then‐most favourite Knopfler song, Brothers in Arms, was played.

It was a mesmerizing experience. For weeks later, I couldn’t stop replaying in my head the sensation of listening to Brothers in Arms performed live, standing amidst a sea of people with every note played through that Gibson Les Paul punching a hole through the air around. It was that night that I knew that it can’t be the last time for me to watch these guys perform, and I ended up attending four more, including flying to Vancouver to catch the tour’s concluding show.

Fast forward almost eight years later. I have seen this band perform more than a few times since. I can very easily relate to the excitement that this performance builds in people—after all, it’s Telegraph Road’s outro solo that we’re talking about, and it is a tension‐building one (it would be silly to assume that Mark doesn’t know exactly why he chooses to play this song before the encore). The experience of gathering nearby the stage is truly unique and touches an emotional nerve with many—this is undeniable; which is why, I think, the band’s management instructs venues’ security staff to allow the audience to remain standing up for the entire encore.

I have absolutely no problem with that.

However, just like with other areas in life, my problem begins when people treat others like garbage on their way to satisfy their own selfish emotional needs.

I am not religious, I don’t practice anything and, if being religious is what makes you happy, then by all means, practice whatever you want. My problem begins once you let your own personal preferences interfere with the lives of others. A religious individual who inflicts violence on others as an ideology, interfering with their lives in the name of his/her “God”, immediately loses—in my eyes, at least—any social privilege. I mock, despise, dislike, abhor, detest and loathe such people, irrespective of religious belief, race, gender or the colour of their underwear.

Recklessly running towards the stage, crushing everything along the way and completely disrespecting others’ right to enjoy a concert without getting hurt, isn’t much different than the practice of abusing others as part of a selfish ideology.

It saddens me to realize that, as a society, we are growing more and more tolerant to acts of violence. As mysterious it is to me what prompts someone to engage in violence (hey, parents nowadays allow 10 year old kids to play video games in which they kill prostitutes and shoot police officers. Maybe it’s not that mysterious after all), it is far more of a mystery to me what prompts the acceptance of such violence without proper societal sanctions.

Having said that, I get the feeling that such incidents can be minimized (or avoided) by proper education (that is, teach kids in school less about useless stuff and more about how to avoid being cruel to one another), and proper sanctioning (charging such people with assault, plus having them barred from attending concerts for a period of time, say 95 years).

At the moment, I’m under the impression that none of these methods is actually practiced. You can be stopped by a police officer and given a hefty fine for jaywalking, but if you happen to be pushing people violently during a concert, most chances are that you’re going to come out of it clean.

So what can we do? well, one thing we can not do is looking at the big elephant strolling around the china store and pretend that it’s not there. If you see violence taking place in a concert, don’t just ignore it. Report it. Act upon it. Insist that it’s taken care of. The only way perpetrators are going to stop physically attacking other concertgoers is if they find out that it doesn’t pay off, or is counterproductive. Accepting violence is bound to trigger more violence.

My friends from Arizona, Katrina & Lane, were spending a couple of weeks in Europe and made it to Knopfler’s last two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Last time we met was during the 2012 Knopfler‐Dylan tour in California; plans were made well ahead of time to get together and catch up, over afternoon tea at the Brown’s Hotel—a staple in London’s hospitality industry which dates back to 1837 and hosted many rich, famous and royalty.

As Lane made the reservation and forwarded the information to me a couple of weeks ago, I realized that this place has a dressing code called “smart casual”. I know exactly what clothes I brought with me to this tour—none of it qualifies as “smart casual”.

Quite frankly, I think that the entire concept of “dress code” is stupid to begin with (as long as you’re dressed, why the hell would I care if you’re “smart casual” or “stupid formal”?) but that’s a different story.

The point is that jeans and a buttoned shirt was the best I could come up with, so the Arizonians promised that it will all be OK.


Arrived at the Brown’s Hotel on Friday afternoon, 4:00pm. Quite expectedly, meeting this wonderful couple was a pleasure. The four of us spent about two hours sitting at the wonderful tearoom snacking on delicious sandwiches, extraordinary desserts and great tea, all the while catching up on so many things that time was really flying by.


The two live in Flagstaff, Arizona. They travel a lot together and they work together. According to them, since they became a couple, they never ever spent even one night apart.

The latter statement wouldn’t be so baffling had they not been together for 20 (yes, twenty) years now.

Now, I am no stranger to relationships—good or bad; neither am I an expert on the subject. But when I look at these two; see them interact with each other—verbally and physically; when I am in their very presence, I simply feel that if a perfect couple exists out there in the world, it must be them. They repeatedly claim that they are, in fact, one; and it doesn’t take more than an hour with these two to realize exactly what it means.

The very act of observing all of this is fulfilling and inspiring. Maybe not all hope is lost. Inevitably, delving into this issue, I can’t help but thinking about myself and my own status: where I am going to end up, and in the presence of whom, if at all. Only time will tell, I suppose; however, so far, time has been giving many clues but I consistently fail to connect the dots between them.

Before leaving the hotel, we went to see the room where Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever successful phone call in Great Britain: it happened right there at the Brown’s Hotel, and the room where Bell demonstrated his invention we call “phone” now serves as a touristic attraction.


Instead of taking the Tube from the Brown’s Hotel to the Royal Albert Hall, we decided to hop on a taxi. That was my first time ever in a London taxi, which explains why I was completely shocked when I noticed the peculiar spacious interior that allows passengers to sit facing each other. That seemingly small taxi could hold up to seven (!) passengers and I could have never guessed so just by looking at the taxi from the outside.

The show on Friday was a treat. Just before the concert started, I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone saying “Shalom”.

When such a thing happens, I already know that I’m going to be happy once I turn around. Travelling intensely for so long makes the very sound of your mother tongue feels like a handle for holding on to reality. Turned out that it was an Israeli couple I had met three years ago in Chicago by complete accident as I was taking an elevator in a shopping mall and was recognized as “that guy”. They flew to London from Israel to catch the show and it was certainly good to see them again.

Friday, then, was a good day, and all that was left for it to end well was for some random band of eight musicians, accompanied by two guests, to perform well—which they did. The bulls did run, but no extraordinary violent incidents witnessed.

Saturday arrived way too quickly. Waking up Saturday morning, I couldn’t believe how quickly that week has been flying by.

My Israeli friend, whom I met during the concert the night before, spoke highly of a coffee place by the name of Monmouth Coffee, claiming that it is the best coffee in London. Reviews appeared be generally supportive of that statement, so I decided to pay a short visit.

What I didn’t know was that the coffee place is located in Borough Market, which happens to be one of the most renowned food markets in the UK.

It was also sunny. And it was a Saturday.

Combine the aforementioned together and you should understand why the entire area was flooded with millions of people. As soon as I exited the London Bridge station and started walking towards the market, I realized that this was going to be an interesting experiment in drowning in a sea of people. Approaching Monmouth Coffee, I saw something a had never seen before in my entire life, anywhere: a long line‐up. When I say “long”, I mean this:


The line‐up started outside, around the corner from the store. Looking at how it progressed, I figured that it might take another 30–45 minutes until I’ll be able to order anything. As no coffee in the world is worth 45 minutes of my time waiting for it, I fled the scene and grabbed a good cup from a nearby coffee place (less than 20 steps away), much less crowded but still very good coffee.

Wandered around Borough Market…

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… and on my way back to the train station, I couldn’t help but laugh at this:


Someone please remind me what prompted the 2007 economic meltdown in the United States…

Back in Kensington, I decided that I couldn’t take this anymore. I know I stated before that I wasn’t going to cut my hair until the tour is over. I lied. I used to have long hair in high school (past the shoulder line) and for a brief period ten years ago, but not anymore. Paid a visit to a place called Cool Creative in Kensington.

I am not a big fan of getting my hair cut, especially in an establishment I had never been to before. The reason is that I’m having a hard time explaining what it is exactly that I want done: I can only explain after the fact. Hence, trial and error are a necessity here, and the more establishments I go to, the more such trials and errors are required.

Back in Vancouver, the only reason why I ended up cutting my hair where I do is that I know the owner through a mutual friend. Luck had it and she turned out to be fantastic at what she does. In my first time there, she asked me “what are we going to do today?”, and I responded with “I don’t know. Make me dateable”. She did. But I didn’t do anything with it.

This time, I simply said flat out that “from what I currently have on my head, the only way is up, so go nuts”.

I normally shy away from small talk. I’m not good at it; never was. That probably (partly) explains my mediocre dating history as well as the fact that my circle of friends grows slower than the continental drift. Somehow, miraculously, the individual, who was in charge of cutting my hair back to the realm of sanity, sensed that. At first I thought he was rude; he wasn’t. It was really all me and what my expression conveyed. He did a great job. If you’re in Kensington and would like to lose some weight through cutting your hair, go there.

Back at the hotel, and then headed out to the last concert in the Royal Albert Hall for this tour.


Ruth Moody, once again, gave a very good performance. She and her band will be missed, until later on in June when they return to perform as an opening act for Knopfler in France.

The band, perhaps fuelled by knowing that a week long break is ahead, gave everything they had and the result was a truly remarkable performance, ranking together with the first concert that week in London as the top ones in the tour so far. Really, wow.

A couple of seats to my right, a man was seated along with his little daughter. As the people who are most likely to get hurt by violent bull running are the ones seated on the sides, I was a little concerned with how things might develop.

Surprisingly, the run to the stage started much earlier than usual, about 20 seconds before the end of Telegraph Road. People around hypothesized that this was a result of a significant presence of Spanish and Italian fans in the audience, which may be true—Knopfler enjoys a rather vocal and loud fan base in these countries. It all happened very fast, but by what I saw, there were no casualties.

That little girl was safe, by the way.

It felt sad to bid this wonderful venue goodbye. Not just the venue: heading back to the hotel after the concert, it occurred to me that once again I have to pack things up. Back to travelling mode—but only for a day, before a long week break.

Signing off this post from Jeroen’s apartment in Delft, The Netherlands. Will do very little writing in the next following days. Next up: June 7th in Zwolle, The Netherlands—followed by a flight to Tallinn, Estonia and a ferry to Helsinki, Finland right after.

Can’t wait to see Laura again.



  1. Forty years is a good age to get hitched for a man. I would not be rushing into getting hitched. At 40 you got the 25 year olds randy for a more experienced man. Bide your time Isaac.

  2. Great record, Isaac! BTW: There always were and sadly there probably always will be suppressive individuals (anti-social personalities). Glad that only now you came across one of them touring with the band. It probably means that this band attracts very good audience.
    As for the good couple of friends you were meeting, there are many forms of "good relationships". I think the first and foremost rule is that each individual must appreciate his/her spouse very much and avoid doing things that may harm this relationship.

  3. Hey anesthisi...what exactly does this mean "It probably means that this band attracts very good audience."? So you are saying that aggressive violent behaviour that harms others means that this is representative of the MK band audiences? Do you understand what you are saying here? I really cannot believe that any person in a civilised society would post this on the internet. 165 million people were murdered last century in wars and most of us want NO MORE VIOLENCE.

    1. I think that what she meant was, that the rarity of encountering such violent people in a Knopfler concert(considering the fact that I had attended close to 200 concerts of this band, and only now being a victim of some sort of violence) means that, relatively, Knopfler's audience is on the more "sane" side. I'm not sure what's so outrageous in what @anesthesi wrote...

  4. Oh Ok ..I see. I am first generation immigrant, I often have trouble with this kind of thing.

  5. Welcome! -Laura

  6. The Borough Market is a place that I found by accident many years ago. Since 2005 I visit London once per year, and when I do in small budget I use to stay at the St Christophers Inn, a hostel that is cheap, clean and very well located as its close to London Bridge Train and Underground stations, and very close to everything that worths to be seen in the South Bank area.
    One day wandering around I decided to visit the Southwark Cathedral, and I found that market, really big and full of everything you can desire to eat. Its really a place to visit.



  8. Great blog Isaac, and again, thanks for warning me about the guy who likes to disrupt the stage rush. I was well fortified on both sides (the fellow on the left with his 20ish daughter had listened avidly to your and Philipp's description of the prior night's events and was ready to form a concerted defense with us) and while there was some jostling, we were able to maintain our position by the stage at the end. I had a wonderful time at the concert and hope that it's decided to tour in America as well. Hope also that you have a good rest of the tour! Jacki

    1. No problem Jacki. Glad you were able to make it to London for the concert, I know it wasn't easy... You made it!

      See you soon.

  9. watched the whole Thursday night "end of Telegraph Rd. scrum2 from above..and the idiot(s) who imho used excessive er..lets say energy to achieve what they wanted. It looked quite unpleasant. I thought it was selfish and bad-mannered behaviour and I was honestly a little bit shocked at the apparent animosity of one or two of those idiots..particularly when (I assume) rebuked by those who they had manhandled out of their way. You were right to be a little peed off! we say in UK. G.L. with future concert going.