JOPLIN, Mo. —
Alan Clark is no stranger to touring and playing music in the United States. But it's been a while since he's gotten to play so many songs from Dire Straits.
The music of the band he joined shortly after its formation -- and played with through its most popular phases -- is featured by The Straits, which will perform tonight at Downstream Casino.
"This is a terrific band," Clark said. "Every time we play, it's a great, energetic, powerful show. I've played in some damn good bands, and this one is right up there."
Clark, keyboardist for Dire Straits, and saxophonist Chris White lead The Straits, which features vocalist and guitarist Terence Reis, whom Clark had discovered from a few brilliant renditions of the band's songs. Clark said Reis was tabbed to lead a reassembled version of the band for a fundraising concert at the Albert Hall in the U.K.
The experience turned out so well that Clark and White kept it going through European tours. Now including drummer Steve Ferrone, bassist Mickey Feat, keyboardist Jamie Squire and guitarist Adam Phillips, the band has embarked on a limited run of U.S. shows across the Midwest.
Dire Straits, featuring the brother duo of Mark and David Knopfler, found its biggest success in the mid-'80s with the album "Brothers in Arms." The album peaked on U.S. charts at No. 1 and stayed there for nine weeks, its multi-platinum run fueled by singles such as "Walk of Life" and "So Far Away." It was the first album to sell a millon CDs.
The album's biggest track, "Money for Nothing," scored the band's only No. 1 hit in the U.S., mainly on the strength of its music video.
Featuring a mix of groundbreaking animation, a cameo from Sting singing a slogan to the tune of a popular Police song, a whole lot of namedropping and a little bit of controversial lyrics, the video became one of the most played on TV.
The album was recorded at Air Studios Montserrat, formerly located in the Caribbean. Clark said recording the album was an incredible experience because of the amazing surroundings.
"It was a beautiful place to be," Clark said. "I'd go windsurfing from 9:30 to 12:30, we'd have lunch at 1 and start recording at 2. During weekends, we'd sail to another island. It was a great time."
At the time of its recording, band members had no clue that the album would become such a breakout success. "Money for Nothing," the angst-filled anthem of warehouse workers longing to have the riches of the bands on MTV instead of having to move refrigerators and color TVs, spoofs the band as much as any other band, after all.
It was also the band's fifth album -- Clark said the previous album, "Love Over Gold," was recorded with a piano that just wasn't up to par. In contrast to the power-punk groups of the time, Dire Straits' laid back, stripped-down sound, featured in songs such as "Sultans of Swing," stood in sharp contrast. The band's previous albums had performed well in the U.K. and throughout Europe but had never seized in the States like "Brothers."
"No one knew the album would break the way it did," Clark said. "It was a pleasant surprise. It was particularly satisfying that it was such a success in the U.S."