Rachel and I went to see Steely Dan last night. They are in town for two shows, last night and tonight. Last night, they played the entire Aja album. Tonight, they do the same for The Royal Scam.
The show was terrific. Rachel and I agreed that, musically, it may have been our best show. (Still can't top U2 in 2000, though.) First, they brought the band out, sans Steely Dan, and played an instrumental number that showcased the different instruments, including a great horn section. That was followed by three backup singers, one of whom went over to a turntable in the corner and "started" a record. Then Donald Fagen and Walter Becker came out and they went right into Black Cow, and played the entire album without commentary (other than after Deacon Blues, when the backup singer flipped the record - a great touch).
I remember when Peg came out on the radio. It was the first Steely Dan song that I knew. It and Josie are great pop songs, but Steely Dan is more about jazz/rock than pop, so it was awhile before I took to the other stuff. So Aja was a great album for me to here. Tonight's The Royal Scam may be more like Steely Dan, but I really only know Kid Charlemagne from that album (which they did play as part of the second set). Deacon Blues is probably their best song and it sounded great.
The interesting thing about the first set is that the crowd pretty much stayed quiet and listened. It was more like a concert or show at the Aranoff than a rock concert. But after they finished the album they did a traditional set of songs from various points in their career, leading off with Time Out of Mind from Gaucho, and finishing with Kid Charlemagne. They also played favorites like Bodhitsattva, Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen, and Black Friday and a couple songs I didn't know.
They played Dirty Work from their first album. A great song, but one that was originally sung by another member of the band, so the backup singers took the lead and it was just so-so.
The next to last song seemed to be the crowd favorite, My Old School. This is a great tune and an underated classic. The crowd really got into it; for the first time it seemed like a rock concert. Finally, they played Reelin' in the Years as an encore.
I had always heard that Steely Dan was a studio group that never toured. But Donald Fagen was a heck of a showman, really getting into the show. But the music stole the show. The band was terrific and the music (and lyrics for the most part) were very clear. If you're a fan, you should go tonight.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
4 weeks ago