In 1995, I saw Steely Dan for the first time at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, and it was a fabulous show. For years, I thought I'd never see them live, as both Donald Fagen and Walter Becker despised touring, and had gone their separate ways after making "Gaucho" in 1980.
But they got back together, and now they have returned with "The Rent Party Tour 09" and they are concluding their eight-show stand at the Beacon Theater this week. They are featuring one of their classic albums in their shows (or "Internet Requests" other nights), and last night I got to see their classic "The Royal Scam" played in its entirety.
The jazz group The Sam Yahel Trio opened the night, playing a nice 30-minute set. After a five-minute break, the 10-piece band came out on stage to tremendous applause. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker came out a few moments after the rest of the band as they warmed up. And they got right down to brass tacks, burning right through "The Royal Scam" album. It was interesting to see both Becker and Fagen leave the stage for "The Fez," as they left their three girl backing group to do the honors with the vocals.
The songs were played in the order they were released on the album, and when the second side was about to begin, one of the girls walked over to a turntable on the right side of the stage and turned over an album on it, to great applause from the audience.
"The Royal Scam" took just under an hour to play, and Fagen said very little until the final song, the title track was completed. That was the end of the first act, and he bantered a bit with the crowd, who was really into it.
One of the highlights of last night was drummer Keith Carlock. As "Aja" was beginning, I thought that if his drum solos can send shivers down my spine in this song, he's done his job. Well, he did that and more. It was as good as Steve Gadd's original, if not better.
Walter Becker did the vocals on "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" and I thought the choice of "Parker's Band" was a nice surprise. But I was a bit suprised to see that they did not play "Deacon Blues" at all, as I thought for certain it would be in the encore. I was also hoping for a little more older stuff, like more from "Countdown to Ecstasy" (although "My Old School" was terrific), one of my favorite albums from the boys. The leaned heavier on "Aja" and "Gaucho" for The selected favorites. I was also hoping guitarist Larry Carlton might pop out, as he is making some select appearances on the Steely Dan tour, but he won't be back until the NYC finale Wednesday.)
But overall, it was a terrific two-hour show. The band was extremely tight, and the audience had a great time (a guy in front of me was dancing for most of the show). Steely Dan play two more shows at the Beacon, tonight, and tomorrow night (which was rescheduled from any earlier cancellation).
Here is the set list from last night:
The Royal Scam:
Kid Charlemagne; The Caves of Altamira; Don't Take Me Alive; Sign In Stranger; The Fez; Green Earrings; Haitian Divorce; Everything You Did; The Royal Scam
Hey Nineteen; Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More; Aja; Black Friday; Home at Last; Parker's Band; Third World Man; Josie; My Old School
Peg; Reeling in the Years