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Mark Knopfler, Live in Minneapolis, July 17, 2005

“I am against this lawsuit. It was said TV would be the end of cinema, it was said tapes would kill records and CD burners would kill CD’s, but that’s not true. Technology will always progress. The only real danger comes from countries which practise industrial piracy. I’ve always encouraged the recordings of my concerts. From the stage I had fun seeing all those little red lights of recorders and these microphones held by fans. That’s no danger and even quite cool. Fans who buy bootlegs already own all the official albums anyway. They do us no harm and I find these raids against bootleg shops ridiculous.”  –Mark Knopfler on the lawsuit against Napster and his opinion on bootlegs (Interview by Sacha Reins, Le Point, 22th September 2000)

Since college, I’ve been a big fan of Dire Straits, but over so many years I have to admit I’ve grown a little tired of listening to the same albums. Don’t get me wrong, these are great albums. I think I have every Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler album made. Over so many years, venues, tours, one-off gigs, and many impromptu appearances it’s clear to me that this guy really loves his job. His music has really stood the test of time for me, since I  think the first album I bought was in 1972. Anyway, recently I have found some great sources for Mark Knopfler bootlegs. Which kind of leads me to ask, what’s the deal with these recordings? I want to download them and listen to them, but should I be paying for them and if so who do I pay?

I have to confess I’m a little confused when it comes to this topic. I read a lot about it being wrong to download music for free, and the last thing I need is someone suing me for something I’d be willing to pay for. On the other hand, from what I’ve read, its just as bad to pay for this music. Why? Because the guys who are making the bootlegs aren’t paying anyone for them. Many of these recordings (not all) are done with the artist’s consent, by “tapers” who do this as a hobby. The guys charging for bootlegs are the ones who are screwing the system.

So let me get back to this one in particular. This bootleg was recorded in Minneapolis near the end of Mark Knopfler’s 2005 Shangri-La tour. According to Knopfler’s own recording policy, it appears that this recording is actually an “Authorized Live Recording”. So I downloaded it from here, and I have to tell you this is an incredible recording. First of all, I’m very fussy about sound quality, so its hard for me to find bootlegs I can listen to more than once. This is a soundboard recording, which means the taper was given permission to hard wire his equipment directly into the soundboard. But even that doesn’t assure great sound. The taper needs to know what he’s doing, and of course the output is really a function of the talent of the engineer running the soundboard. Well, the stars must have been aligned for this recording. The sound quality is as close to perfect as I have ever heard. In some ways, I think its better than some of the studio material. And the instruments and vocals are balanced very well. And when I find one with good sound, its spotty on how the performers were that night.

This guy has incredible bootlegs, many with great sound quality. This particular album though, has that rare combination I crave. First, the sound is excellent. And then, to top it off, Mark and the band were just in a groove that night. The live show must have been amazing.

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