Spoilt by a few weak moments but overall plenty of good mate
N. Wright | United Kingdom | 04/10/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"That Dire Straits are better live than in the studio is a matter of opinion, and this double set which covers all their work up to 1983 has certainly stood the test of time. Recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in July 1983 while the classic 'Love Over Gold' album was still in the UK album charts, the live renditions are excellent for at least some of the tracks.
Part one is a bit disappointing (hence the 3 stars though I'd give the album 3 and a half stars overall) in that it is rather slow moving. Only towards the end of the first half does the pace of the music get moving. 'Romeo & Juliet' and in particular 'Love Over Gold' are much better in their original studio formats, while the opening 'Once Upon a Time in the West' is overly long, and of all the longer tracks on the disc this is the only one which seems to ramble. Mark Knopfler also tends to mutter the vocals and change the wording of the songs. 'Expresso Love' is worthy of a mention but the best track on the first disc by far is 'Sultans of Swing'. With 'Sultans' the concert just gets better from this point on.
Part two is much better... in fact no weak moments. Mel Collins features on sax on the opening 'Two Young Lovers'. 'Tunnel of Love' and 'Telegraph Road' are superb, and although they both clock in at around 14 minutes they don't ramble, and never bore the listener (in fact they grow on you with repeated listenings). Knopfler's guitar solos on both tracks are among his best. 'Solid Rock' is possibly the weakest track on the second disc (but still good), while the final track of the concert, 'Going Home', is very moving.
This is definitely worth revisiting, if only for 'Sultans of Swing', 'Telegraph Road' and 'Tunnel of Love' but there are plenty of other moments, especially on the second disc.
'Alchemy' is most probably the best concert of Dire Straits available on album or DVD, especially given that Dire Straits' 1985-86 world tour (which came a year or two after 'Alchemy') has sadly never been available on album or DVD. 'Alchemy' is a significantly better concert than the later release 'On the Night' which documented what was to be Dire Straits's final world tour, a disappointing final release from the band before they disbanded in 1995. Despite the largely slow-moving first disc, 'Alchemy' contains some classic moments, and part two at least ranks among Dire Straits' best work.