John Illsley brings the Songs of Dire Straits to DIss


It’s not often that Corn Hall hosts a member of one of the biggest bands in the world. John Illsley may not be a name familiar to everyone, but together with Mark Knopfler, he founded Dire Straits in the seventies, a band that went on to be nothing short of a worldwide sensation for much of the eighties.

In sharp contrast to the massive stadiums he has played in the past, an evening at the Corn Hall was a decidedly more intimate affair. Illsley chatted conpaniably with his friend and ex-manager Paul Cummins, accompanied by photos, film clips and the occasional interjection from an enthusiastic fan in the audience. It was fascinating to listen to their extraordinary journey from a council flat in South London to the world stage, not least when the anecdotes were delivered by such an amiable and grounded man.  

With half of the evening devoted to chatting, and the remainder given over to music, this was a marathon session of close to three hours, yet it zipped by. Accompanied by three talented musicians, this was a master class in performance, showcasing a number of his own compositions. The touching “I Love you Still” revealed his vulnerable side, “21st Century” proved particularly prescient, while “It’s a Long Way Back” was unusually melancholy. Otherwise the evening was devoted to the Dire Straits back catalogue, from “Waterline”, the very first song, on the very first album, to the monster hits of Brothers in Arms. Along the way we got “Sultans of Swing”, “Walk of Life” and – of course – “Money for Nothing”. All in all, this was a delightful evening of remembrance and celebration of one of the most significant and ground breaking bands of the 20th century.