THIRTY-odd years ago, if anyone had told me I’d willingly go and see Mark Knopfler in concert, I’d have had to stick a safety pin into myself to see if I was dreaming.

This was the post-punk era of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash and Squeeze and there seemed little room for a new, but utterly traditional old-style guitar rock band.

But I’ve always had a soft spot for Sultans Of Swing, Dire Straits’ greatest hits was one of our first CDs and I’ve always kept half an ear on Knopfler’s solo career.

So it was we found ourselves at a sold-out BIC to see a small, grey, balding old man slumped on a stool at the front of the stage, band and instruments arranged around him.

The music began, he remained on the stool with not a word to the audience between songs. Was this a grumpy old man?

All was revealed after the third song when a positively not grumpy Knopfler begged our forgiveness for not high-kicking, but he was suffering from a trapped nerve that restricted his movement.

Thankfully, it didn’t restrict his guitaristry during a two-hour set of newish songs from the latest album Get Lucky, solo favourites and old Straits hits.

The sound was initially mushy, too bass-heavy but it was soon sorted and clarity of note restored for one of those exceptional occasions when it was absolutely essential.

We enjoyed the regular live favourites such as Sailing To Philadelphia, the aforementioned Sultans (with a slimmed down band) and Romeo And Juliet alongside the newer stuff.

Get Lucky seems heavily folky to me, with plenty of whistle and fiddle making it almost Oirish, with an ethereal feel. Knopfler’s gruff, not easily understood, vocals suit it perfectly.

There was sparing use of the big screen to show his fingers in action on the strings and, here, a mention for the often forgotten lighting guys; tonight it was spot on, brilliant.

The set flagged a little in the middle through the skiffle homage Donegan’s Gone and the jaunty, lightweight Monteleone, but a thumping Telegraph Road and then an encore of Brothers In Arms finally got the crowd on their feet.

The house lights came on after a tantalisingly long time during which we forlornly hoped we might get another song or two.

The night was, of course, all about Knopfler, the supreme guitarist, but he couldn’t have done it without such a formidable band behind him.

The likes of long-time collaborator Guy Fletcher, Richard Bennett, John McCusker and Mike McGoldrick et al in a superby tight and utterly versatile seven-piece combo were stunningly tight.

They could quite easily be the best folk band in the world, if only they could find a singer (only joking – no letters please!)