Great musicians tend to surround themselves with great musicians. Tuesday evening this type of virtuosity was on full display as Steely Dan lit up the Township Auditorium in Columbia with a jaw dropping performance of their expansive catalogue. Backed by an absolute stellar band which included Keith Carlock (arguably the world’s greatest drummer) on the kit, renowned jazz pianist Jim Beard on the keys, legendary session bassist Freddie Washington, and longtime guitarist Jon Herington laying down those choice Steely Dan licks, Fagen and Becker tore through a nearly flawless set. The all-star band got things going first with a hot latin jazz number toward the end of which the duo walked out onstage and took their rightful places Becker strapping on the guitar and Fagen sitting down at a finely tuned Rhodes piano. The capacity crowd in the Township was chomping at the bit to hear these guys and they did not disappoint launching into Black Cow followed by Aja, the first and second tracks from their 1977 release. In fact, throughout the course of the night, the band played every song from the album Aja with the exception of Home At Last and I Got The News.
The Township is proving to be a dynamic venue. I wouldn’t be surprised if after initially installing the new sound system, the engineers played a few Steely Dan tracks to test it out. Their music serves as the perfect benchmark for a great system. Can you hear the thump of the bass, the smoothness of the background vocals, the biting guitar lines and closely miked drum kit? Tuesday night you could. The sound was nothing short of incredible. Other than one small 3-second glitch during My Old School (it was quickly fixed and didn’t take away from the tune) the sound system performed beautifully. The seating was comfortable and the whole concert experience was enjoyable.
Walter Becker may look like a computer repair technician (no offense if you’re one of those, and if you’re reading this your probably pretty cool anyway) but he’s a rhythm machine on the guitar and occasionally throws in some choice lead of his own. Donald Fagen’s vocals have not lost a step and he can still sounds like he’s not going to make it when he reaches for those high notes, but somehow he does and it works. Steely Dan has such great songs. Well written, difficult to play but easy to listen to songs. It is their impeccable musicianship and approach to the songs that make them legendary performers and a bucket-list live act. I like checking out setlists myself so I took the liberty of posting Tuesday night’s below. It may as well serve as a party playlist on your iPod because you would be hard-pressed to find a person that can’t groove to some of these tunes. Thank you Township and thank you Steely Dan.
Black Cow, Aja, Hey Nineteen, Black Friday, Two Against Nature, Show Biz Kids, Time Out Of Mind, Babylon Sisters, Green Earrings, Razor Boy, Bodhissatva, Daddy Don’t Live In NYC No More, Deacon Blues, Josie, Peg, My Old School, Reeling In The Years