Great music stands the test of time, as exhibited by Steely Dan at the beautiful Dickies Arena. Music that became singalong songs, lyrics that made you think and melodies that made you feel good were just a few of the reasons that had the audience singing, swaying and dancing all night.
To set the tone for the evening, Snarky Puppy came out and delivered a terrific set of jazz-infused blues, rock, pop and funk. The North Texas band already had a good following in the area and will undoubtedly make new fans on this tour. The 10-piece band played several songs from their upcoming 14th studio album and the knowledgeable audience members showed their appreciation on bringing together the diverse instrumentals into a cohesive melodic set.
The crowd cheered when members of Steely Dan came onstage to a jazz background and then erupted as Donald Fagen joined them and took a seat at the keyboards. At the first notes of the second song, "Hey Nineteen," the fans jumped and sang along with Fagen and The Danettes, an angelic-voiced trio of backup singers. The entire band was tight, a long-standing attribute of Steely Dan live shows, and the music sounded as fresh as it did when it premiered so many years ago.
In a new twist, though, "Black Friday" was a little more bluesy and the audience, most of whom had seen them before, were aware of the slight difference and enjoyed it. After "Aja" began, fans began talking of what they were doing in high school when this song first came out. Young kids, another test of ageless music, were enamored with the music they had heard their parents play and were now fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. The Danettes added a tender voice as Fagen rose and played the melodica to go along with sax, drums and a blistering guitar solo from Jon Herington.
Donald talked more than in previous concerts, a nice departure from his usual seriousness, and said he was having so much fun on this tour. It again showed as they played "Kid Charlemagne" for fun and finished a major jam session inside the song with a rousing drum solo finish. They continued to played instrumentals and then songs with coded lyrics that people have been trying to decipher for years. The mark of a great musician, Fagen allowed every band member to play to their strengths, solo often and shine before the audience.
Great lyrics continued with "Babylon Sister" making this even more meaningful than just the beautiful melody that it is. "Green Earrings" again showed the talent level of the band and the keyboards just about blew off the roof. Fagen kept talking to the crowd and engaged them, making them part of the music in addition to listening to bringing back their young adulthood.
To help save his voice, the co-writer of all these hits talked through several lines of "Riki Dont Lose That Number" and toyed with the fans during non-verbal parts of the music. The uptempo "Bodhisattva" played at an even faster pace and the band played it with the precision it does at a slightly slower pace. The Danettes, accompanied by the entire Dickies crowd, sang lead vocals on "Dirty Work." Again, the long-time backup singers with beautiful voices stayed true to the song, but added a touch of Soul to the song originally sung by David Palmer.
The cameras came out for "Peg," especially as Fagen sang the lyric, "When you smile for the camera." It kept people on their feet and they stayed standing and dancing for the final song, "My Old School." Herington played a blistering solo, the Danettes added their vocals and Fagen let the jam go on much longer than previous shows with stuck to the radio version to finish the set.
It didnt take long for the demanding crowd to get them back on stage and they rocked a raucous version of "Reelin In The Years." The crowd roared, the band members grooved and The Danettes showed off their synchronous dancing during the long jam that ended with a kit-banding drum solo. In a wonderfully sentimental touch, Fagen thanked the late Walter Becker for writing all these great tunes.
The show was over much too soon, but thats what happens when a great band has more hits than time available to play them. They tried to play something from all nine albums (eight of them gold or platinum) and showed exactly why theyve sold over 40 million records. Steely Dan has come a long way from their reclusive days as a session band in LA and backup band members of Jay and the Americans.
Steely Dan is touring all summer, so catch them when theyre in your area. Go to a show at the beautiful Dickies Arena where there are no bad seats, the staff treats you well and parking is so much easier than most large venues.