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Concert Reviews:
No Static At All For Steely Dan At DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, September 3, 2006

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- It's the opening act's job to warm the crowd up for the headliner. So it was no surprise that Michael McDonald promised the 8,000 or so at the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday night that they'd see "a great show" from Steely Dan.

Fortunately, he wasn't just talkin'.

Touring for the first time in three years, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and their 10-piece band lived up to the hyperbole with two hours of the most fan-friendly concert they've put on since reactivating Steely Dan in 1993. It was a night for hits and well-known material, with all 18 songs hailing from the group's first run between 1972-80. Casual Dan fans, for instance, could groove to singles such as "Peg," "Hey 19," "FM (No Static at All)" and "Do it Again," sung by McDonald, who was part of Steely Dan before he joined the Doobie Brothers and sat in with the group on seven songs during Saturday's show.

And with no new album to promote, Becker and Fagen felt comfortable digging deep into their canon for other favorites, some of which -- "Bodhisattva," "Kid Charlemagne," "I Got the News," "Time Out of Mind" and the show-closing "My Old School" -- still log radio time while "deep cuts" like "Black Friday," "Green Earrings," the bluesy "Chain Lightning" and "Don't Take Me Alive" have been rendered more obscure and were therefore delightful surprises for ardent followers in the DTE crowd.

Given Steely Dan's reputation for finesse it almost goes without saying that the performances were uniformly excellent, marked by fluid solos from guitarists Becker and Jon Herrington, solid drum work by Keith Carlock and plenty of tasteful playing by the four-man Fab-Originees.com horn section. Backup singers Cindy Mizelle and Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery took the lead on "Dirty Work," and even Becker's guitar tech -- Detroit native Skip Gildersleeve -- got a special shout-out and was given a banjo in appreciation for his "years of service."

Opening for that formidable of an ensemble could be daunting, but McDonald and his six-piece group more than held their own with their 70-minute set. He too has plenty of hits to draw from, and the white-haired singer-keyboardist freely mined his Doobie Brothers past ("It Keeps You Runnin'," "You Belong to Me," "Minute By Minute," "What a Fool Believes," "Takin' it to the Streets") and represented his solo career with "Sweet Freedom" and "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)."

But McDonald really won the Detroit area crowd with selections from his two Motown cover albums, especially when he brought the Ron Kelly & Friends vocal chorus on stage for "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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