Former Dire Straits members launch American tour, Jersey appearance due

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Alan Clark performs with singer and guitarist Terence Reis, playing the music of Dire Straits. The Straits will be at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank March 4, 2014. Alan Clark performs with singer and guitarist Terence Reis, playing the music of Dire Straits. The Straits will be at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank March 4, 2014. The Straits, featuring two members of Dire Straits, had their American debut last night (Feb. 28) at the Little River Casino in Manistee, Mi.

The group will be in New Jersey March 4, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets run $25 to $65. More details are available at

The band includes Alan Clark, who joined Dire Straits in 1980 and saxophone player Chris White, who played with the original band on world tours and albums as well as on two of Mark Knopfler’s solo records.

Notably absent will be Knopfler himself, the singer, lead guitarist and songwriter for Dire Straits.

In a phone interview while the stage was being set for the band’s American premier Friday, Clark said he and Knopfler always got along fine, but they have not spoken in a couple of years, and he did not invite Knopfler to be part of The Straits. In interviews with British press, other former band members have said a reunion has been discussed with Knopfler, but he’s so far been reluctant, saying the band got too big during its heyday. He continues to tour and release solo albums.

Clark, who plays keyboards and is described as the unofficial musical director for The Straits, said he did not believe anyone could fill in for Knopfler, until he found guitarist and singer Terence Reis.

“I never ever even thought about doing this,” Clark said. But there was a request to play a charity gig at the Royal Albert Hall, and Clark started thinking about putting a band together.

He started looking at Dire Straits cover bands.

“They were all bloody awful,” he said.

The biggest issue was finding someone who could play guitar in a what that approached Knopfler’s unique style of fingerpicking.

“I never heard anybody that could play Dire Straits music successfully. Nobody could ever do the Mark thing,” said Clark.

Reis, whose last name rhymes with “beige,” was born in South Africa and grew up in Mozambique, playing guitar in the finger picking style of the local street musicians.

According to Clark, the style and his voice fit for the band, and Reis jumped at the chance to get involved.

The first show went well, Clark said.

“People are receiving it very well indeed, probably better than anticipated,” he said. In fact, he said, it went so well that he decided it should not stop there.

For the past couple of years, The Straits have toured Europe and Russia. This will  be their first tour of the States,  and they’re set to hit the ground running, with a show almost every night in March, and rarely in the same state two nights running. On March 5, they play the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood.

According to Clark, the band is only playing Dire Straits material, but he hopes to go into the studio to record some Straits originals. But he said the band is not interested in note-for-note songs off the CDs.

“I refuse to do a carbon copy of Dire Straits, because Dire Straits would never do a carbon copy of Dire Straits,” he said.

Knopfler and his younger brother David founded Dire Straits in Britain by in 1977. The group achieved international success with a series of hit albums, including their biggest hit, “Brothers in Arms.

By the mid-1990s, Mark Knopfler had enough and dissolved the band, releasing his first solo album in 1996.

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