Saturday, April 13, 2024

Steely Dan Reeling in the Years One Last Time After an Arduous Tour


If you’re in the area Sunday night, you won’t want to miss Steely Dan’s last date on their 56 gig tour at the beautiful newly renovated Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. Last night’s show, the middle one of three dates, was such a high I wish I could go back again.

If you’re a Steely Dan fan, there is nothing better than Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and their “Steely Dan organization” of top notch musicians including Jon Herington on lead guitar. What always continues to astound is how supple the Becker- Fagen songs remain after 40 years. Last night they even brought back “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” not heard live in decades.

The group also revived “Dirty Work” from their first album, made popular again in the movie “American Hustle.” Fagen never sang it, not even on the album– that was David Palmer, who went on to co-write hits like “Jazzman” with Carole King. So the Dan-ettes, three fetching and ferociously gifted back up singers, handle the vocals so Fagen can rest his voice.

The two hour show is jam packed with songs built on jazz themes, improbable hits that are far more sophisticated than anything offered on radio today. It’s hard to believe that “Peg,” “Josie,” “Rikki,” “Reeling in the Years,” even “Hey Nineteen” with its “Cuervo gold and fine Columbian” made it onto radio airwaves, and became standards. Young people– like in their 20s– danced away in the aisles to “My Old School” with cheers for “William and Mary won’t do.” Do they even know what it means?

Becker and Fagen used to be these mysterious figures who were never photographed and rarely explained anything. They’ve mellowed a bit. They talk to the audience– Becker does a nice little shpiel in the middle of “Hey Nineteen.” They all make “Aja” into a centerpiece even though it’s the second number. No “Deacon Blues” last night, which is like if Paul McCartney skipped “Let it Be.” But you can’t have everything.

The Capitol is now a work of art. I used to go there in the 70s, in high school. It fell on hard times. At one point, around a decade ago, my friends threw a bat mitzvah there. Peter Shapiro rescued it, and brought it back to prominence. The sound is outstanding, and the vibe is refreshingly relaxed. The seats are all re-done in red velvet, too. And the venue is easy to get to from New York by car or train. Port Chester is hopping, also: who knew? Try Il Sogno for dinner first.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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