After an opening instrumental foray by the eight-piece backing band, Fagen and Becker strolled on stage from separate sides to the strains of Royal Scam, which turned into an engaging, and not the least bit expected, opener. Sixty-year-old Fagens fine whine of a voice is thinner than in the past, but he still has the range and tonal control to handle anything from the Dan book. And the two female background singers made the choruses really pop.
If Steely Dan wants to play Tampa Bay once a year for the rest of my life, Im there. But what makes these shows doubly worthwhile is the way the group mixes up the set list.
Last night, they passed over Aja a bit of a disappointment in light of the Snider brothers history with the song Bodhisattva, Reelin in the Years, Do It Again, My Old School and Deacon Blues. And it was OK. Instead, they performed Babylon Sisters, New Frontier (from Fagens Nightfly album), a reggae-fied version of Everything You Did (for my money, the best surprise of the night), a quick run at Parkers Band and a funky remake of Show Biz Kids. Hey, its a trade-off.
Two members of the Dan band are vital to the live show. Drummer Keith Carlock and guitarist Jon Herrington (introduced as the musical director) have an intuitive knack for honoring the Dan songs from the 70s, while letting their individuality shine through. For instance, on the second guitar solo of Kid Charlemagne, Herrington knows he must start out with the descending Larry Carlton line from the recorded version its as crucial to the song as the main melody; but afterward he launched into his own improvisation.
The 12-piece Steely Dan ensemble reached its pinnacle on Black Friday, where they locked into the spirited shuffle beat and clicked on all cylinders.
You know youre digging a show when its 90 minutes in and youre still hoping to hear three or four songs on your wish list. Steely Dan played two hours, and they didnt complete my dance card, but they'll get no complaint from me. Maybe one of these years theyll play Gaucho or Rose Darling or Dr. Wu. And maybe none of those songs and a dozen or so others I could name will ever make the set list. That's still OK by me. Just keep on touring, fellas.