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Concert Reviews:
Steely Dan Pays The "Rent" At SoundBoard Show

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, September 6, 2009

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DETROIT -- As it finished its summer Rent Party '09 tour of North America, the members of Steely Dan could have been tired and ready to get home.

But on Saturday (Sept. 5) at the Motor City Casino's SoundBoard, whose size and unseated main floor made it effectively a rare nightclub gig for the band that's played only arenas and amphitheaters in this area since it resumed touring 16 years ago, the 13 musicians delivered an inspired show that, in an hour and 50 minutes, showed off as many chops as in an entire day of the Detroit International Jazz Festival that was taking place barely a mile away.

The Rent Party tour has been something of a special affair for Steely Dan, with performances of select albums ("The Royal Scam," "Aja" and "Gaucho") in their entirety on some nights and other shows whose set lists were chosen by fan Internet requests. And though the SoundBoard show was a "normal" performance absent any of those gimmicks, it still benefited from the spirit of the rest of the itinerary. Steely Dan pulled out rarities such as Gaucho's "Glamour Profession" and "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" from the "Katy Lied" album. And the show finished with the high-octane original 1972 arrangement of "Reelin' in the Years," which Ray Charles-mimicking singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen noted that fans had requested this time out after hearing several different treatments over the years.

But the truth is that when the band was as on as it was on Saturday, Steely Dan could have played most anything and had the casino crowd rocking to its sophisticated and complex blend of rock and jazz. Band co-founder Walter Becker, Fagen's songwriting partner, displayed his growing guitar solo acumen on "Black Friday" and "Josie," while Jon Herington contributed his own six-string heroics on "Bodhisattva," "My Old School" and "Kid Charlemagne." Drummer Keith Carlock alone was worth the price of admission throughout the show but had his time to shine during "Aja," while each of the four horn players had opportunities to add their voicings during the 16-song set.

Other favorites such as "Hey Nineteen" (with its nod to Aretha Franklin), "Black Cow," "Dirty Work," "Peg," "Babylon Sisters" and "Green Earrings" were greeted like old friends, and the crowd neither noticed nor complained that the group left more recent faire from 2000's Grammy Award-winning "Two Against Nature" and 2003's "Everything Must Go" on ice. It was the proverbial hot night when any "rent" was certainly paid in full by the time the party ended.

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