Steely Dan Still Reelin’ in the Years

Spent Friday evening at the Beacon theater on Broadway over on the West side.  The theatre is gorgeous and we had great seats, second row balcony, dead center.  As has been Steely Dan’s custom for their last two tours each night of the seven they spent in New York was geared around one of their albums.  This night was billed as Royal Scam and Twenty-first Century Dan (meaning Two Against Nature and 2003’s Everything Must Go).

I’ve been a Steely Dan fan since way back.   I fell in love with the album Aja my freshman year in college and never looked back.  So it seems natural that I’d also fall in love with a guy crazy for Steely Dan.   He’s subsequently introduced me to all of their albums (and much to my surprise several favorite songs were actually Dan songs—like Reelin’ in the Years).  Anyway, add to this story the fact that my daughter now knows the lyrics and background stories on every single song Donald Fagan and/or Walter Becker ever wrote and we’ve been come a family of Steely Dan fans.

photo by MSG

The concert hall was packed, everyone waiting with anticipation for Steely Dan to begin, which made it a little difficult for the very talented opening act because everyone was talking.  In some ways it felt more like a bar than a concert hall.   But hey, such is the life of opening acts.

Despite the elegant interior of the hall, nothing much has changed when it comes to concert goers.  Granted, the room was filled with gray-headed people—most of us with wrinkles to mark the years, but still, the majority of folks arrived late, around nine, anticipating the actual start of Steely Dan.

The concert opened with a jazz piece that introduced the band—highlighting the brass section in particular (a trumpet, trombone, tenor sax and baritone sax).   And then guest guitarist Larry Carlton  (who played with the group in the 70’s).  And finally the two men who will forever be Steely Dan—Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.   The crowd went wild and the concert began.

The music was broken into three “sets”.  The first being a complete rendition of Royal Scam including my favorites; Kid Charlemagne and Haitian Divorce.   Fagen’s voice was a little hoarse in the beginning.  Possibly a cold.   But by the second set, the microphones had been adjusted and he’d warmed up, the resulting sound much better.

For the second set of songs, they concentrated on albums Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go.  Playing among others, the title songs from each and my favorite, Cousin Dupree.  By that point the audience was totally into the performance and many were on their feet.

The last set, and definitely the most high energy, consisted of favorites from across the years, including Josie (with a fabulous piano solo to open), Peg, and Reelin’ in the Years.   The show stopper was a rocking rendition of Bodhisattva.   And then they finished off the night with Pretzel Logic, leaving us all  satisfied,  yet still wishing for more.  All in all—a fabulous way to spend a Friday night in New York City.