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Concert Reviews:
Steely Dan Does It Again At DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2008

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- A concert by Steely Dan -- who didn't tour for more than 20 years at one point -- was once a rare occasion and, therefore, an event. But the low turnout (about 5,000 people) Friday night (Aug. 15) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, like last year's lightly attended stop at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, indicated that it's not quite as special anymore.

On stage, however, Steely Dan proved the folly of thinking that way.

The style-blending band's virtues remain intact three dozen years after its first album and 14 years after it resumed touring -- great songs, sophisticated arrangements, intelligently skewed lyrics and more musical chops than Woodward had vehicles this weekend. All of those were amply displayed during the group's two hour-plus show at DTE on a pleasantly cool evening, a tuneful kind of dream cruise through Steely Dan's rich catalog -- or, as singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen dryly called it, "various phases of our magnificent career."

Fagen and Walter Becker received a standing ovation as they walked on following an instrumental overture of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" and "The Fez," as the rest of the 13-piece "orchestra" moved into the smooth, jazzy gait of "The Royal Scam." The group followed with a slinky reworking of "I Got the News" and a phat, funky take on "Showbiz Kids" before the guitar-slinging nirvana of "Bodhisattva" injected some rock flavor into the proceedings.

The rest of the night mixed hits such as "Hey 19," "Josie," "Peg" and "My Old School" with favorite album tracks "("Babylon Sisters," "Don't Take Me Alive") and more recent Steely Dan fare such as "Two Against Nature" and "Godwacker." There were also a few surprises, including opening act Joey DeFrancesco playing some guest organ on "Black Friday," the Becker-sung "Gaucho," a version of "Parker's Band" sung by the group's three intensely Afroed backing singers -- who also sang a bit of the Supremes' "Love is Like an Itching in My Heart" during the player introductions -- and "New Frontier" from Fagen's 1982 solo album "The Nightfly." In another nice touch, Becker brought five members of the Steely Dan crew who hail from the Detroit area on stage to take a bow.

The show's zenith, however, was a dynamically charged "Aja," highlighted by solos by guitarist Jon Herington, superlative drummer Keith Carlock and saxophonist Walt Weiskopf.

"Kid Charlemagne" (another Herington showcase) and "Last Tango" wrapped things up in fine fashion -- and showed that Steely Dan is still a special musical experience, no matter how many people show up.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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