April 26, 2017
Las Vegas, NV USA
Review by Dave Gray
Photos by Erik Kabik
Steely Dan Reels Them In At The Venetian
Steely Dan began a nine concert residency over 17 days on April 12th at The Opaline Theatre at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have been at it for almost 50 years and tonight this tight, 16 song set showed it. Though they dipped into their vast catalog of deep cuts, this two hour show focused on the classics.
This partnership has composed tunes that have been at the apex of the pop/jazz/vocal style for 40 years. Intelligent rock and roll! These are timeless songs and hold up today as well as the day they were written. These guys are pop composers with jazz sensibilities.
Becker and his guitar work was content to stay in the background throughout the evening except for a welcoming address and personnel intros later in the show (which lasted 15 minutes for this 13 piece group!). But there was no question who the crowd came to see. Fagen easily covered all his classics and gave new life to some old ones.
The first of two standouts on this night was a soulful vocal rendition of "Josie" by Fagen. Becker's guitar playing seemed to follow Fagen's inspiration, as this was by far his best solo of the night. The second was a wall of blissful sound on "Black Friday" created by this second-to-none band. From start to finish, "Black Friday" wouldn't let you take a breath, the band just kept coming at you in the best way possible.
The driving force of any great musical group is their rhythm section. Chuck Rainey hits the groove on bass every time and UNT's own Keith Carlock on the drums is a jazz madman who motors this entire group to crazy heights. Though Becker's guitar playing has always been a little hit or miss in live settings, not so with second guitarist Jon Herrington. This man rocks every solo with a perfect vibe for this great group. These tunes aren't for the timid... not three chord simple rock progessions. They are compositions for serious musicians who know their craft. These guys, and girls do. Three female singers, all accomplished in their own style, make Fagen's vocals come to life every night, even on nights when he might not have his best stuff. A great four piece horn section and Jim Beard on second keys rounded out this large ensemble.
The two founding members give all their bandmates plenty of room to solo, never feeling the pressure to live up to these other great musicians. And that tells you a lot about the musical integrity they have shared for these last five decades.
A great show... a great night in a fun city... and hopefully many, many more to come.