Music Review: Tour through Dire Straits' live output with new box set spanning 1978-1992

This cover image released by Rhino Records shows the box set cover for “Dire Straits Live 1978-1992." (Rhino Records via AP)

Dire Straits may be best known for their No. 1 song “Money for Nothing” (think Sting singing “I want my MTV!”) that came from their chart-topping 1985 album “Brothers in Arms."

But as their new “Dire Straits Live 1978-1992” box set shows, the band was much more than any one song or album. Out Friday, the release proves they were also a force live with a deep catalogue that goes far beyond the radio friendly fare that put “Brothers in Arms” at No. 1 for nine weeks in the U.S.

The eight CD or 12 album box set is a showcase for a wide range of Dire Straits songs: the storytelling of “Romeo and Juliet,” the sonic explorations of “Telegraph Road” and “Private Investigations” and more accessible material like “Walk of Life.”

However, only 29 tracks are previously unreleased. And the bulk of those come from “Dire Straits Live from the Rainbow Theatre,” a 1979 show available for the first time.

Spread over three vinyl records, the show captures the band after the success of “Sultans of Swing,” but before “Brothers in Arms” sent its global popularity through the stratosphere.

“Live at the BBC,” which had been first released in 1995, shows the band even earlier — in 1978 just as they were starting. It's fun to hear them working for it with an audience that doesn't greet the opening riffs of familiar songs with applause.

There's also an expanded version of “Alchemy,” the band's 1984 live album, presenting the band just before the release of “Brothers in Arms.”

There's no document of that 1985 tour in this box set and that's a failure. Instead, the box set jumps ahead to its final 1992 world tour with “On the Night” and “Encores.”

“Dire Straits Live 1978-1992” serves as a fine live snapshot of the band's evolution. The music is exceptional and presented in beautiful sonic clarity. However, the set could have dug even deeper to offer even more rarities and previously unreleased tracks for the diehard fans who already have the original releases.


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