Saturday, July 26, 2008

Think Fast, Steely Dan

A few nights ago, I finally got to see Steely Dan in concert at the minty fresh Nokia Theater across the street from Staples Center. First off, the venue is pristine. The sound is the best in town and they boast two hi-def screens that flank the stage. Not that the Dan are much to look at, but they are such fantastic performers, I got a kick out of seeing them "up close." Don Fagen channels Ray Charles by way of Transylvania. A vampiric soul man? Darn tootin'. And Walter Becker? He's like a Gerry Anderson Super-Marionette. His head and arms seemed to move independently as his body remained planted in place. But those guitar solos! Walter killed on FM. Steely Dan do come across well on stage. Don is a hoot and Walter does a deadpan that Dan Aykroyd's Elwood Blues could only dream of.

As for the set. It wasn't chock full of greatest hits. They did pull out their pop hits Hey Nineteen and Peg; but the show was mainly a gift to their albums' fans. The "Think Fast" Orchestra featured a four piece horn section, three female backing singers, keyboard player, a featured guitarist... and possibly the sickest drummer I've ever heard. When he was done with the drum solo from Aja, my jaw had been on the floor for several minutes.

The show started sans Becker and Fagen, with the big band playing hot instrumental versions of Everyone's Gone To The Movies and The Fez. Our duo strutted onto the stage with their chorus to The Royal Scam. The highlights for me were plenty. Showbiz Kids is as timely as ever. Steely Dan repeated the last verse for emphasis.

"Show biz kids making movies of themselves.
You know they don't give a f*** about anybody else."

Ah, Celebutantes... Fagen had your number thirty-five years ago.

Of course, hearing Peg and Kid Charlemagne live was outstanding (Modern hip-hop audiences know these tunes from sampling: De La Soul & Kanye West, respectively). Fagen's New Frontier from his solo disc The Nightfly was another favorite. The song has been playing in my head while I sleep for several weeks. Well, here's the set list:

Everyone's Gone To The Movies
The Fez
The Royal Scam
I Got The News
Show Biz Kids
Everything You Did
Two Against Nature
Hey Nineteen
Glamour Profession
New Frontier
Gaucho [sung by Becker]
Babylon Sisters
Parker's Band
Third World Man
(Your Love Is Like) An Itchin' In My Heart [Band introductions]
Kid Charlemagne

Don't Take Me Alive
FM (No Static At All)

The fact that I was thrilled by this show and Steely Dan neglected to play my 5 favorite Dan songs (Reeling In The Years, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Bad Sneakers, My Old School and Deacon Blues) speaks volumes about their canon and their entertainment chops. Nearly two hours of sublime jazz rock pop.

I got to thinking about the summer of 1988 when I started buying CDs. A Decade Of Steely Dan was one of the first I purchased. Shortly after that, I got a copy of The Nightfly (the first digitally recorded pop album) for Christmas. Mike or Mark gave it to me. Shame I can't remember. I'm sure they will tell me.

Thanks Steely Dan... and Think Fast!

Peace & Jazz


Post a Comment

<< Home