Steely Dan is still going strong – but no dancing!
No dancing, please; it’s a rock and roll concert, not a party!
Steely Dan came to town on May 28, 2022 to perform at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater. The cloudy weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the many upwardly mobile people who attended the concert. I was lucky enough to get into Premier Parking which means you can park closer to the arena for an extra $40. (However, that didn’t mean getting out of the venue early. We were stuck immobile in one place for over an hour after the concert.)
Once we were safely huddled in our parking spot, I decided to walk through the other parking lots to compare the scenes. As far as I know, there was no difference between them regarding spectator activities. Either way, it was a scene of wine and picnics. I saw one group eating salads, another eating sushi, and another having a charcuterie platter with some nice meats and cheeses. A very moderate gig parking situation, and not a joint in sight. The crowd appeared to be mostly in their 60s and 60s, driving luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes and Tesla to their rock ‘n roll show and not wanting any outside interference from other spectators. I considered it a yuppie rocker’s paradise and resisted the temptation to ask them if they knew the name Steely Dan was taken from William S. Burroughs. naked lunch, and refers to an oversized, steam-powered strap-on.
The venue was easy to get to, but once inside I found the idea of paying $27 for a vodka lemonade somewhat daunting. Other depressing: no dancing allowed and we had to turn off our cell phones. The phone, I got it, but no dancing with Steely Dan? It’s an interesting thing when dancing at a concert is taboo. Is it possible that the hall is aware of the audience demographics and does not want to file a complaint?
Steve Winwood was supposed to be the opening act but dropped out due to Covid-related scheduling conflicts. Snarky Puppy took the opening spot instead. I had never heard of the all-instrumental group – a ten-piece ensemble whose members come from all parts of the country – but they were all great musicians. Do yourself a favor and check out their Latin/funk/jazz sound on NPR Small Office Gigs on Youtube.
Steely Dan was no slouch; they had their own ten-piece ensemble, plus three choristers called the Danettes. They came out playing a big band sound reminiscent of the Glenn Miller era. Then out came Donald Fagan. He wedged himself behind his keyboards, just in front of the middle of the stage. His voice was the same as ever on songs such as “Hey Nineteen”, “Aja” and “Kid Charlemagne”. A Danettes singer sang a beautiful rendition of “Dirty Work.” This was followed by a sizzling version of “Bodhisattva”, before the band finished filming with “My Old School”. That’s when I saw the flashlights flashing and flashing as security guards rushed through the crowd to tell people to sit down and stop dancing. I struggled to stay seated for the entire concert, but I managed, even when they played “Reelin’ in the Years” for an encore.
Donald Fagan is the last original member of Steely Dan. All the musicians played perfectly, but I noticed a difference in the music without the signature guitar playing of fellow founder Walter Becker. I guess that’s to be expected after a band loses a founding member, a guy who helped create many of its hit songs, and replaces him with two new guitarists. Becker died suddenly of esophageal cancer at age 67 on September 3, 2017. Shortly after, Fagan filed a lawsuit against Becker’s estate to retain full control of the band. The litigation began four years ago and is still ongoing. Luckily, a fan in the crowd wouldn’t notice any signs of being unwell, or even know that a lawsuit is pending. In fact, there was a sense of kinship between Fagan and his deceased longtime partner. He ended the concert by saying, “I would like to thank my partner Walter Becker for his help.” He then gave a quick hello to heaven and left the stage.