Concert review: Steely Dan serves up no static at all in Tampa

The classic jazz-fused rock band hit MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater with Elvis Costello & the Imposters on Tue., Aug. 11 (photos)

click to enlarge Donald Fagan with Steely Dan at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11. - Tracy May
Tracy May
Donald Fagan with Steely Dan at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11.

A muggy August night with threats of a massive downpour was no match for thousands of rabid Steely Dan fans. The superb multi-piece ensemble built around founding members, guitarist Walter Becker and keyboardist Donald Fagen, conjured some pretty powerful juju from the massive stage of the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Tuesday night to stave off the all-too-familiar Florida summer rain gods ... as well as harnessing that power to deliver a pretty damn near perfect performance for the diehards who filled most of the venue's seats.

Getting things off to rousing start, an eight-piece band (including four horn players) immediately took flight with a spirited, dynamic Latin jazz intro before Becker and Fagan made their grand entrances. Accompanied by three ravishing female backup singers all clad in black, the full group took their respective spots on stage and drew a ravenous roar as the band broke into "Black Cow" from 1977 milestone album, Aja. [Text by Gabe, photos by Tracy]

Dan's trump card has always been their uncanny and ambitious ability to successfully blend elements of jazz, soul, pop, rock and funk within their compositions: few artists coming out of the same somewhat bland early 1970's culture had the audacity or the goods to pull off such a daunting feat. These guys were not only ballsy enough to meet the challenge gleefully, but made a career of it.

As the musicians coolly and gracefully breezed through an impressive set of well-known radio hits and some lesser known material, Becker, Fagen and company reminded the mostly AARP eligible-aged crowd of the craft and skill their complex yet incredibly catchy songs have always been so painstakingly enveloped  in.

"Hey Nineteen," a massive radio hit from the band's 1980 album Gaucho, sounded particularly smooth and fresh thanks in part to Fagan's distinctive, somewhat nasal yet still strong and rich vocal delivery. The trio of background singers beefed up the choruses divinely but it was Becker's tasty guitar prowess that made this one a real standout. 

click to enlarge Walter Becker with Steely Dan at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11. - Tracy May
Tracy May
Walter Becker with Steely Dan at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11.
Sounding as crisp and clear as if listening to them through the fancy, expensive speakers they were meant to be listened through, the Dan seemingly pleased everyone in attendance from those who've followed them fanatically since their formation to the more casual fans. In one of the night's surprising between-song banter sessions from Becker, he revved up the crowd by calling out the "loyal fans" and acknowledging them in kind. 

The soul/jazz strains of "Black Friday," dating back to 1975, were about the perfect representation of the jaw-dropping ability this band has to seamlessly and effortlessly blend two genres to make their own unique concoction. Fagan, clad in blazer, tee-shirt, loose fitting necktie and shades, left his piano bench to grab a melodica and fill in the gaps, arguably the night's most memorable highlight... although there were plenty.

click to enlarge Concert review: Steely Dan serves up no static at all at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre - Tracy May
Tracy May
Concert review: Steely Dan serves up no static at all at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
A particularly funky reading of "Showbiz Kids" got a large portion of the crowd up and out of their seats...and many of them never resumed a seated position afterwards. Delving back to their earliest days to blow the dust off one of their first hits, "Dirty Work," the band allowed backup singers Carolyn Leonhart, Paulette McWIlliams and Cindy Mizelle, affectionately named "The Danettes," to take over vocal duties (originally delivered by original member David Palmer) and the results were stunning. The ladies melded their vocals with impressive ease to create a perfectly harmonized vehicle that gave the song new life, all while unleashing some pretty fancy dance moves. 

Crowd pleasers "Josie" and "Peg" drew more deafening roars but it was "Reelin' In The Years" that drove the passionate fans over the edge; by then, most were up and on their feet and grooving to a band that's more than likely been in constant turntable rotation since the golden age of album-oriented rock. 

Wrapping up their nearly two-hour, non-stop set with another classic, "Kid Charlemagne," Becker and Fagan quietly yet triumphantly left the stage to once again let their incredible band of players close with a faithful cover of bandleader Nelson Riddle's 1959 television theme song, "The Untouchables." 

For a band that largely refused to tour throughout their heyday, Walter Becker, Donald Fagan and the current Steely Dan lineup are more than making up for lost time and treating their longtime fans to an incredible night of stunning performances and great tunes. 

Warming up the crowd before the sun had totally set, the awesome double-bill found Elvis Costello and backing band The Imposters delivering a fantastic 60-minute set that featured it's own fair share of hits and deep album cuts.

click to enlarge Elvis Costello and The Imposters at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11, 2015 - Tracy May
Tracy May
Elvis Costello and The Imposters at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Tue., Aug. 11, 2015
In a white hat and clad all in black, Costello jumped around throughout his vast catalog. Elvis, who surprisingly beefed up his electric guitar playing for most of his set, threw plenty of bones to his own cast of diehards who'd filled an abundance of seats. Whether crooning his way through "New Lace Sleeves" or adding in mock police siren sound effects from a prop bullhorn during the reggae-tinged rocker "Watching the Detectives," Elvis and his trusty three-piece dazzled the crowd still filing in as he took the stage.

Plagued by less than stellar sound, Davey Faragher's beefy bass lines and Steve Nieve's pristine piano work were at times hard to decipher. Still, Elvis delivered the goods as he always does. A personal "wow" moment came with a particularly astounding version of "Riot Act." a slow, building cut from 1980's spectacular Get Happy!! album that spiraled into an extended, pulsing jam.

During a lively version of "Clubland" featuring some sparking Latin-tinged piano work from Nieve, Costello payed homage to the night's headliners by sneaking in the chorus of their "Dirty Work" to follow a line from his number that includes the same phrase in it's lyrics.

Closing with the familiar one-two punch of "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love,and Understanding," Costello had the crowd pumped up indeed and up on their feet ... and wanting more. 

Steely Dan setlist: 
Cubano Chant
Black Cow
Hey Nineteen
Black Friday
Time Out of Mind
Show Biz Kids
Rikki Don't Lose That Number
Dirty Work
Babylon Sisters
Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More
I Want To (Do Everything for You)
My Old School
Reelin' in the Years
Kid Charlemagne
The Untouchables 

Elvis Costello and the Imposters setlist:
Walk Us Uptown
Riot Act
Watching The Detectives New Lace Sleeves
Shabby Doll
Sneaky Feelings
The Judgement
(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea
Everyday I Write the Book
Pump It Up
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding 

click to enlarge Steely Dan - Tracy May
Tracy May
Steely Dan

About The Authors

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
Scroll to read more Music News articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.