The Straits, a tribute band honoring the very famous Dire Straits, was hosted Friday night at the ornate Austrian baroque Palace Theater in Albany, New York. The Refrigerators, an opening act local to the Albany music scene, gave an energetic performance of some hot funk numbers by Three Dog Night (Joy to the World), The Isley Brothers, and The Ides of March (Vehicle). Their lead singer, Todd Hanhurst, was right on with powerful vocals and gave a plausible rendition of the hits they covered; the brass section was tight and well-disciplined. It is a testament to the success of a musical group if they can get the audience singing with them: these guys did.
The Straits are an incredible group of musicians whose members include Alan Clark and Chris White of the original Dire Straits line-up, as well as some newer members. The Straits lead guitarist – Terence Reis (rhymes with “beige”), from South Africa – was discovered by Alan Clark, who was the first keyboardist for Dire Straits. Mr. Reis was recruited when Alan Clark and Chris White decided to put The Straits together. Their drummer, Steve Ferrone, was on loan from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band is rounded out by Mickey Feat, who has played with Marc Knopfler before, playing bass; Adam Phillips on rhythm guitar; Jamie Squire plays keyboards, guitar and percussion.
The first thing one notices about Terence Reis’ guitar-work is that he has mastered Marc Knopfler’s guitar style and technique. Completely. That is to say, if one had no idea what Marc Knopfler looked like, one would not have been able to tell just by listening, that he was not up there on the stage himself. The next most obvious thing is that Terence Reis has also mastered Marc Knopfler’s vocal style to the same degree. He’s an excellent frontman, and he politely and effectively got the audience dancing by explaining “there is no need to remain seated.”
At their performance at the Palace Theater, The Straits opened up gradually, in darkness, with mystical sound effects that suggest that the group is heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. This group is brilliant at phraseology – they start slow and melodic, and build to an intense and passionate climax which has to be felt, rather than described. When they pull out all the stops, the sound becomes grandiose in scope – not grandiose like a bipolar cousin, but grandiose like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In other words, extremely emotional.
The Straits started with Private Investigations, a number that did not get a lot of airplay on rock radio stations, but one that is quite recognizable as a Dire Straits product. The Straits also took out some of the more familiar Dire Straits numbers. Romeo and Juliet, a soulful ballade, featured Chris White on the saxophone, playing sounds such as one might hear on a misty New York City street in the night. Walk of Life, one of their best-known songs, which gets a considerable amount of airplay on classic rock stations, sounds very much like it needs to be played in a tunnel in Central Park, near Bethesda Fountain, in the summertime. By the end of the show, they had covered Brothers in Arms, Where Do You Think You’re Going, and Sultans of Swing. When the group was done with this emotionally gripping performance, the audience wasn’t. The audience wanted more, so The Straits obliged, finishing off the evening at the Palace Theater with Money For Nothing. More information about The Straits, as well as their upcoming tour dates, can be learned from their website: thestriats.com.
Review by Laura Prendergast