EC is God. But he always searches on earth to recruit guitarists for his band. Since his early career EC always wanted to have the best rising talents to push him to be a better guitar player as he often remarks.
This is what happened in the mid 80s, when Knopfler was one of the most considered guitar players because his work with Dire Straits but also with an amount of collaborations with other musicians in his by then short career, like Bob Dylan, Brian Ferry or Chet Atkins.
The very first live performance of both together was at a concert with Dire Straits during Christmas 1985. EC played on a couple of Dire Straits numbers and also Cocaine and Further On Up The Road, from EC´s repertoire, was played by the band.
After that performance, with Brothers in Arms Tour finished, they met again on stage during Prince Trust 10th Birthday Concert in June 1986. Being part of the house band, they did not have special relevance in each other´s performance but you can hear them on the several hits performed by the other artists, which is always interesting. Mark was accompanied by John Illsley and they performed Money For Nothing.
The very first Royal Albert Hall residency for Eric Clapton was in 1987. He started a tradition which lasted several years. And for that historical moment he recruited Mark Knopfler as the second guitar player. It was his first time to be an EC´s band member.
Their styles fitted very well and those nights were recorded by the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio but never saw the light of day officially. After those London nights and a couple dates in Europe, MK left the band to collaborate with other artists, like Willy DeVille.
The 1988 Royal Albert Hall residency had an augmented band, this time with Alan Clark on keyboards instead of Greg Phillinganes who left to work as musical director on the Michael Jackson´s Bad World Tour. But Knopfler was still there. With a pretty similar set list to what was played in 1987, there were a few more nights at the Hall and a small UK tour.
Then The Prince´s Trust show and Mandela Concert appeared in their schedule. For the Prince´s Trust they rehearsed on the 4th June, and played 5th and 6th. It was an Eric Clapton set, with special guest Elton John and Mark Knopfler. Money For Nothing was played. Like it was in the 1987 and 1988 tour shows.
For the Mandela Concert things were quite different as it was a Dire Straits performance. After a couple of years hiatus, expectations with the band were very high and the appearance of EC was the icing on the cake. After two fan-club only dates rehearsing at the Hammersmith Odeon in London they played on the 12th at Wembley Stadium. It became one of the most remembered performances of Dire Straits, highlighting the version of Brothers In Arms which was officially released. As a deference with Clapton, they performed a haunting version of the classic ballad Wonderful Tonight. This version was so well received that people called to radios to ask for that sweet slow version, as played in the concert. It was released, in a extended version, on the 24 Nights album released by EC in 1991.
For the rest of 1988, Clapton embarked on a USA Tour (celebrating his 25 years career), again with Knopfler, closing the year with four dates in Japan with Elton John as guest. The set was a mix of hits of the three rock stars, with Knopfler taking the lead on Money For Nothing and Solid Rock. Sting joined them one night too to sing that he wanted his MTV.
And the last EC & MK Albert Hall appearance took place in early 1989. Knopfler played Solid Rock instead of Money For Nothing on selected dates. This time Clapton had 6 nights with a four piece band, including Phil Collins on drums, and 6 nights for the big band. It was the beginning of what would be the stunning “24 nights” format, including differents bands on different nights. For those nights, the set changed a little bit and some newer songs from EC´s catalogue were included.
Knebworth Festival on the 30th June 1990 was the next stop on this EC-MK trip. MK had just finished his Notting Hillbillies live tour and a new Dire Straits album was in the making. Again, they delivered an outstading performance that we are lucky enough to have recorded and released on both audio and video. Clapton joined Dire Straits on their three song set with Solid Rock and Money For Nothing but the highlight was the unreleased blues track called I Think I Love You Too Much. MK also joined for the Elton John Set with a lot of tasty licks and solos and for the all star finale, The Cream track Sunshine Of Your Love that was the closing number for what was called The Supergroup.
After Knebworth, Dire Straits came back in 1991 and MK started his solo career in 1996 before they met again in 1997 for the Music For Montserrat event. On September 15th 1997. MK played a three song set, including Wild Theme, which remains unreleased, and a couple of numbers from Brothers In Arms: the title track and the ever present Money For Nothing. Apart from his own stuff, MK played in the house band but the real highlight was an unforgettable rendition of Layla. Clapton with his Martin and Knopfler on the Les Paul, with the “Unplugged” flavour.
On March 2003, they should have been on stage together for the Teenage Cancer Trust concert in London but Knopfler had a motorcycle accident which forced him to cancel his solo tour aswell.