Steely Dan. For me, it can’t get much better, and seeing this amazing 13-piece band in concert is the treat of the summer. An absolutely outstanding evening of music offered by The Steely Dan Orchestra was experienced at The Gorge in George WA, on Saturday, August 2nd. Even the weather was cooperative: warm with enough clouds to shut out the sun during the beginning of the concert, but not enough to prevent a brilliant, red sunset by the end of the first set.
The set opened at 7:16 pm PDT, with the band playing the Ray Bryant instrumental, Cubano Chant. Our “principals”, as Donald would describe Walter and himself at the start of Set Two, arrived shortly afterwards. Donald sat down, and the band began Aja.
1. Cubano Chant (Ray Bryant Tune)
2. Aja (Aja)
3. Time Out Of Mind (Gaucho)
4. Godwhacker (extended “mix”) (EMG – Everything Must Go)
5. Caves of Altamira (Royal Scam)
6. Blues Beach (EMG)
7. Babylon Sisters (Gaucho)
8. Slang of Ages (EMG)
9. Peg (Aja)
10. Home at Last (Aja)
11. The Steely Dan Show
12. Janie Runaway (2VN)
13. Hey Nineteen (Gaucho)
14. Haitian Divorce (Royal Scam)
15. The Things I Miss The Most (EMG)
16. Parker’s Band (Pretzel Logic)
17. Josie (Aja)
18. Kid Charlamagne (Royal Scam)
19. Don’t Take Me Alive (Royal Scam)
20. My Old School (Countdown to Ecstasy)
21. FM (FM Soundtrack)
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
1. Cubano Chant: Nice, smooth opening for the band, allowing the members to flex a bit of muscle and get their chops working!
2. Aja: Outstanding, brilliant execution, with Keith Carlock channelling Steve Gadd and adding his own touches. The audience is already spellbound with this brilliant musician.
3. Time Out Of Mind: Nicely done, out of left field, not a tune I thought I’d ever hear, loved it
4. Godwhacker: Donald brings out the melodica, and the band cooks into high gear. Jon Herington provides the bed guitar track, allowing Walter to solo throughout the tune. The girls, all stunners as usual, bring their b/u vocals into high gear. The tune gets an “extended mix” to allow some of the players to solo, including Cornelius Bumpus, Jim Pugh, Michael Leonhart and Walt Weiskopf.
5. The Caves of Altamira: What a surprise! The horns opened the song, of course, and “blew” me away! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
6. Blues Beach: The catchy number of the new album, a fun tune, great harmonies, with Carolyn Leonhart taking the solo line during the extro section
7. Babylon Sisters: I’m dying in my seat at this point. Watching and hearing Carlock count it in, I’m beside myself (no, I had’nt sees any previous set lists so didn’t know it was the next tune). I SO love this song. And the girls’ “you gotta shake it baby” harmony was bang on.
NOTE – By this time, the band had already received 4 or 5 semi-standing o’s after the tunes.
8. Slang of Ages: Donald, who by this time was riffing with the crowd, introduces Walter, who does a great job on the tune. Afterwards, he introduces every band member to raucous applause and approval. Someone from the crowd screams, “SHOW BIZ KIDS”!, and two second later, they begin:
9. Peg: Regular crowd pleaser, well done, Herington interprets the Graydon guitar solo differently each time.
10. Home at Last: I’m beside myself again. Such a brilliant tune, Ted Baker is bang on with his intro, the band smokes, the audience is in heaven.
11. The Steely Dan Show: the girls (Cynthia Calhoun, Carolyn Leonhart, and Cindy Mizelle – the Three Cs, as I call them) sang this number, along with Jim Pugh and Michael Leonhart. A treat for the crowd, this tune was written during the Europe portion of their 2000 tour, self-promoting themselves, and a welcome back for Don and Walt as they walk on stage near the end of the tune.
12. Janie Runaway: nice tune, nothing spectacular, but it went right into:
13. Hey Nineteen: a great rendition, and in the midst of the song, Donald starts talking about “remembering when we were young, and we had those cool summer nights, with a sleeping bag, under the stars, and we were drinking something, can’t remember, what was it called, girls?”, as he looks over at the Three Cs, and they respond, “The Cuervo gold…”. Nice touch. BTW, in the original, Donald sings: “Hey Nineteen, that’s ‘retha Franklin“, but instead chose to sing “Hey Nineteen, that’s Otis Redding..”
14. Haitian Divorce: Walter sang this, and Jon Herington cut loose on the riffs throughout the song.
15. Parker’s Band: outstanding, and sung by the Three C’s. Herington flies on the solos.
16. Josie: Predictable perhaps (that the song would be played), but Carlock absolutely kills on a drum solo for the ages. Good God, this guy is outstanding!
17. Kid Charlamagne: great tune, same arrangement as in 2000, and Jon gets to rip a few more brilliant solos.
18. Don’t Take Me Alive: Donald forgets to sing right at the beginning of this tune – or does he? Herington Rules and the band rocks. Jon, I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy. And damn you for making it look so effortless. (I’ve been a guitarist for almost 37 years…the man makes me weep for myself).
19. My Old School: What can I saw? Another all time favorite. Baker tinkles the ivories until he hits the opening notes, and the crowd is standing. Jon Herington rules, and then rules more. A reminder why Becker and Fagen are among our most brilliant songwriters, ever.
20. FM: Predictable, Don and Walk thank the crowd, leave the stage, and the band continues on for a while until they finish.
– The band was hot as can be. Where in the name of God(whacker) did they find Keith Carlock? Migod, this guy can play the drums! (Also annoys me that he looks about 15 years old!) What a backbeat combo, Carlock and Tom Barney. They laid the foundations for every tune with energy and drive and consistency.
– I’d give the show an 8.5, maybe a 9 out of 10. It is difficult to find many faults with a show that borders on flawless.
– What I’d like to see dropped from the show: FM, Josie or Peg, Kid Charlamagne, Janie Runaway. Then again, with Peg and Kid Charlamagne, we get to hear Jon Herington rip brilliant solo after brilliant solo, and the same applies to Walter on FM and Josie;
– Walter’s lead playing was tasteful and nicely done
– In other shows, they’ve done Reeling in the Years (as opposed to their other hit, Reelin’ in the Sheeves – check out the DVD, also on line, Steely Dan Confessions, for more about that song), Do It Again, and The Last Mall. Would’ve loved to have heard those tunes in lieu of the others listed above; but in shows where Do It Again is performed, they aren’t playing Babylon Sisters, so it’s a win-win situation anyway;
– Missed Donald singing Haitian Divorce (another all time favorite), but was thrilled to hear it nonetheless;
– Donald was really having fun on stage, more so it appeared to me than at the 2000 Gorge show;
– Keith Carlock is a drumming god; Tom Barney is a bassist god; Jon Herington is a guitar god;
– the Three C’s are singing goddesses
– Jon Herington never really was allowed to cut loose until the second set, but when he did, wow!
– having the Three C’s sing The Steely Dan Show and Parker’s Band were two strokes of genius
– was surprised not to hear more from 2VN, given its Grammy award-winning status, and such.
Songs performed by album: Can’t Buy a Thrill: 0; Countdown to Ecstasy: 1; Pretzel Logic: 1; Katy Lied: 0; Royal Scam: 4; Aja: 4; Gaucho: 3; Two Against Nature: 1; Everything Must Go: 4; Other: 2
Bottom line: Miss this show at your own peril. The tour just began, and ends in Hawaii in October. The band is truly amazing. Tight, brilliant executions of every song – I’ve been a musician for 37 years, and continue to marvel at the sound these people generate on stage. It’s a bonus that Becker and Fagen are having so much fun in their 50s, making music for the ages.
And I slept with Diane. 😉
PS: I forgot to mention the sound! The Sound! It was beyond description – most of the tunes sounded better live than on record. In 2000, long time SD engineer Roger Nichols was on board, so it made sense then. This time, I didn’t spot him, but suspect his hand was in the mix somewhere, as perhaps was Elliot Scheiner. Both Nichols and Scheiner won Grammies for 2VN.