Takin' it to the streets-circa 1978
In the late seventies, I got to drive the family Dodge Omni to school if I dropped my dad off at the train station every morning at o-dark-thirty. The Omni had nice and sticky vinyl seats and a swingin' 8-track player slung under the dash. In the summer of 1978, I wore out my 8-track of Steely Dan's, Aja, and I've been a huge fan ever since. I saw the reunited Becker and Fagen in Virginia during the 2000 tour in support of their Grammy winning album, Two Against Nature. Great show. The band was tight. They even played Boston Rag that night.
When I found out they were touring again this summer, a friend and I bought tix months ago to the show in Phoenix. Well, that friend is a Navy Reservist, and he left for Iraq last week. So, I took my oldest son up to smoggy Phoenix for his first show.
The Michael McDonald portion was led by a nasty sandstorm that pretty much continued throughout the night. Michael McDonald has to be the Celine Dion of blue-eyed soul. He filled every off-lyric portion of every song with high-pitched and mumbled wails. He also frequently turned his head off mike in a move that looked Ray Charles-like, but only deprived us of hearing whether he was on or off key while he was free-styling. McDonald played a lot of old Motown and Doobie Brothers tunes. The crowd reacted with energy every time he began one of his Doobie hits, but he lost momentum by the end of every song. His Motown takes were better. He even brought on a local Baptist choir to sing backup on Taking to the Streets and Ain't No Mountain High Enough. The gem of the night was You Belong to Me, which I remember as a Carly Simon song, but one I found out later he wrote with her. Overall, a solid show from a slick professional.
Steely Dan was just not the same band I saw in 2000. Many of the same musicians were still in the touring band, but everything seemed an rpm slow and uninspired. They played only the 70's stuff. Nothing from Two Against Nature, Everything Must Go, or Fagen's brand new Morph the Cat. That's unfortunate, cause H-Gang from Morph is a fantastic song. I also really like Cousin Dupree, Almost Gothic and Jack of Speed from Two Against Nature.
I'm no sound engineer, but it sounded like the technical crew mixed out all but the highest treble across the board. Fagen sounded like he was singing thru a bullhorn much of the night. I also often couldn't hear Fagen at all, his voice being lost behind the two female vocalists. One of the most distinctive Michael McDonald moments as a member of Steely Dan were his backing vocals on Peg. I was excited to see McDonald join the Dan for a few numbers at the end of the show, including Peg. Once again, the chicks drowned out both McDonald and Fagen. But they were hot signing, "The Cuervo Gold-the fine Columbian, make tonight a wonderful thing..."
Back in the day, Steely Dan would bring in the best session musicians to play on their albums. Walter Becker usually got credit for playing some guitar and some bass. Live and in 2006, Becker plays a lot of the classic guitar solos. He seems to play the same stuff on the same guitar on every solo. Becker is half of a truly great musical partnership, but he doesn't bring what Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Rick Derringer or Larry Carlton brought to the mix.
On the positive side, a real keeper from this show was hearing Don't Take Me Alive, an obscure but tight rocker, laced with black humor in typical Dan-style from The Royal Scam. Three songs I'd still love to hear them do live-Rikki Don't Lose That Number (which they never play live-Yeah I dig the basic bump, but it's the guitar solo I love), Doctor Wu (check out the multi-tracked Fagen harmonies) and Caves of Altimira (with its Chicagoesque horns).
Yeah I bitch. But I bitch because I love. I'd see Becker and Fagen again in a heartbeat-even in another sandstorm. They'll be in Charlotte later in the tour.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Takin' it to the streets-circa 1978
Posted by M15D at 7/20/2006